From Murphy (The Vicars of Christ, 1979; The Roman Enigma, 1981), a well-above-average rendering of the life of St. Peter. The story is told by Quintus, a Greek-Roman philosopher who has written a life of Christ and now turns to the tale of Simon Peter, ""the affirming denier, the cowardly hero."" Quintus begins with Peter's hysterical blindness after denying Christ, then takes the reader through a rebuilding process, of sorts: as Peter slowly gathers his strength, so does the infant Church. The material is, of course, familiar, but Murphy manages to endow it with enough suspense and original twists to carry the pace along through the first martyrdoms and minor successes all the way to the end, in Rome, some 35 years after the death of Christ. Just before his martyrdom, Peter once again loses faith and promises to cooperate with the Roman authorities, thus securing the release of himself, his wife Naomi and daughter Jephthania, and Quintus--but redeems himself and returns to the Coliseum for a terrible crucifixion and death by burning (since Nero is attempting to blame the new sect for putting the torch to Rome). Overlong at times, and a trifle scholarly, but for fans of religious fiction, a thoughtful historical that avoids mawkishness and proselytizing.