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The Colour of Blood

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  277 ratings  ·  29 reviews
Somewhere in an unnamed Eastern bloc country, someone is out to silence Cardinal Bern. Is it the Secret Police, or is it - more shockingly - fanatical Catholic activists who believe that Bern, by keeping the peace between Church and State, has finally compromised himself too far?

Narrowly escaping an assassination attempt, Bern is abducted by sinister, anonymous men, and s
Hardcover, 182 pages
Published 1987 by Jonathan Cape, London
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3.51  · 
Rating details
 ·  277 ratings  ·  29 reviews

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Dhanaraj Rajan
Jan 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: irish-lit, literature
On the Surface:

It is a fast paced crime thriller. And can you believe that this thriller was listed for the Booker Prize and lost the race at the last moment? A crime thriller and a Booker prize - Do they go together?

A Cardinal of the Catholic Church in one of the 'satellite states' of the Soviet Regime is under threat. He is chased and hunted and the Cardinal is not sure who hunts him down - the State or the Catholics themselves. This is the premise and the narration is really racy involving i
I wasn't expecting too much out of this book, given the Goodreads rating. But it was strangely interesting and well paced. I can't say I completely agreed with Cardinal Bem's position, but yes, I also understand where he was coming from. And I obviously didn't agree with the other side also, even though I understood where they too were coming from - at least, the not overtly violent ones. So in that, this book was successful. What I didn't like was the ending, because, what was the point? And I' ...more
Feb 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
A really enjoyable read that keeps you guessing the whole way through. It's never quite sure whose side you should be on, and which character to trust. Brian Moore uses the thriller genre to tell us something about the dilemma of being a religious leader in a country that only reluctantly accepts the church.
Jack Heath
Mar 22, 2019 marked it as to-read
Synopsis: someone is out to silence Cardinal Bern. The Secret Police? Are they fanatical activists who believe he has compromised too much?
Mar 20, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like Le Carre and Robert Harris
Shelves: booker-novels
This book was such a surprise. I assumed this would be some kind of drama novel with elements of a thriller thrown in, but actually it was a gripping story from the first page. It follows character of Cardinal Bem, primate of a nameless eastern bloc country, who survives an assassination attempt and subsequent arrest by the secret police. Bem of course has no knowledge of field-agent crafts, nor is he one of those men who are 'able to handle himself' like the typical ex-soldier forced out of ret ...more
George Matysek
Sep 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Who is behind the plot to kill Cardinal Bem?

The Secret Police? Or maybe even forces within the Church discontent with the way the respected spiritual leader refuses to foment rebellion among the oppressed masses of his nation, an unnamed satellite of the Soviet Union?

In "The Color of Blood," Brian Moore gives readers a thrilling ride as he unravels the mystery while also exploring deeper questions of inner strength, faith and courage.

Although the middle portion of this novel is a bit slow, the
This was an interesting diversion but I'm surprised it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. It must have been the timeliness of the topic in 1987 with communism collapsing. Anyway, it was well written, the plot was solid, and the end gave it a boost, but it isn't a book I'd push on anyone. Still, I would consider reading something else by this author.
Julie Gardner
Jun 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book about 30 years ago and I always knew I'd eventually read it again. It's a political thriller that hasn't lost any of its relevance. I remembered it being good but it was better than I'd expected on a second reading. I had a lot of Brian Moore books but lent them to friends and never got them back. I hope they're still on their shelves!
Kevin Darbyshire
May 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Not sure what to make of this book. I liked the main protagonist but the story seems so unlikely that it stopped fully engaging with the story. The way that he cardinal managed to escape repeatedly just didn't add up. Not one of the best by this author.
Daniel Polansky
The Cardinal of an eastern bloc country tries to avert a catastrophic showdown with the communist government. I admire how many different genres Moore can work in, and this is a skillful if somewhat derivative Greene pastiche.
Mary Alice
Mar 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, reviewed
Here's another face-paced Catholic suspense novel by Brian Moore. I feel I've discovered this author -- I don't know anyone else who has ever heard of him. He's writes a better (and shorter) suspense novel than Ludlum and others of his generation. Because of Moore's Catholicism and because his books cover many genres, he is reminiscent of Graham Greene, one of Moore's admirers.

The protagonist in The Color of Blood is Cardinal Stephen Bem, a very good man and a very religious one. He's also smart
Dec 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The best book I've ever read. It's a thriller, but light years above a beach read. A tour-de-force of spare writing that poses fascinating ethical questions about the relationship between church and state in a communist society. The writing is elegant and spare, menacing and atmospheric. The character of Stephen Bem is fleshed-out and non-cliched. He's a flawed man faced by meaningful personal dilemmas. Moreover, it's a novel of violence with rare gunplay or physical brutality. Instead there's a ...more
Andrew Ziebro
The characters were flat and what I hated most about this book was that he is obviously writing about Poland, and yet he changes the names of all the significant landmarks. He really doesn't know Poland either, and it shows when he says that they arrived at "New World street" on the outskirts of the city. Nowy Swiat avenue is in the heart of Warsaw. Also, it takes many hours to drive from the mountains to Warsaw but he makes it seem like just a few. There are details like this all over the book ...more
Aug 12, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A new author to me, and I want to read more of his books. Sadly, that won't be very many because he is no longer living. However, my library has several of them on hand. This unusual story takes place in a former Communist bloc nation, and so is dated. But the action is exciting as Catholic Cardinal Stefan Bem is taken into custody following an attempt upon his life. Supposedly, he is. Ding protected, but the cardinal suspects something more is involved. The suspense builds as he escapes and tri ...more
Dec 04, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: brian-moore
The best of the five Moore novels I have read. Easy to see why Graham Greene was so enthusiastic about the author because this novel has iron curtain political subterfuge, thriller and personal dilemma, with a touch of church philosophy.

Bem is a fascinating character and the Moore does not let an extended cast take away from the main characters for once. An imaginary Eastern European country is brought to life with all its postwar dullness.

As a mystery thriller the ending is central, and is expe
Serjeant Wildgoose
Although listed for the Booker, I was not particularly struck by the quality of this book. It wasn't bad; just not as good as I had hoped. As thrillers go, its 190 pages lacked the depth of a Le Carre, the characterisation of Greene or the sinister atmosphere of something like O'Flaherty's The Informer.
Mar 13, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: religious-books
Was disappointed in this one. Church vs. Soviet bloc politics should have been right up my alley but this read like the transcript of a game of Hide-The-Cardinal. The end was good enough but the rest of the book was meh.
Matthew Pritchard
May 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Taught, pacy thriller. Well fleshed out main character. Deceptively simple prose. Asks wider questions about the role of Church and State and culminates in a satisfyingly dramatic ending. All in all, a great short read, much better than your average paperback top 10 fodder.
Aug 22, 2012 rated it really liked it
Cardinal Stephen Bem, kidnapped and imprisoned time after time, doesn't know whom to trust - the Secret Police, the eastern-bloc government, or even his own Catholic priests. This great read is one of truth found in faith mingled with the suspense of a political thriller.
Johan Simons
Jan 05, 2013 rated it liked it
the IRA
Mar 03, 2015 added it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
Great novel. It speaks of being relevant to the world by being faithful to God's church.
Jun 28, 2013 rated it it was ok
This was a view into communist life and how the church and state colide. It was well written with a steady cadance for reading. I didn't like the ending.
Jul 30, 2010 rated it really liked it
An interesting plot, but you get no sense of the emotional life of the characters. The book centers on the ambivalent nature of religious relationships with politics.
Derek Bridge
Feb 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is Moore in thriller mode, and the writing zips along to a superb climax. But Moore is always thoughtful and thought-provoking. Here, matters of conscience are a fascinating under-current.
Monica Marie
Oct 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Monica by: Sean Saunders
I don't think this is Brian Moore's best novel, even though it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Still, a fast paced, interesting read that gets better as it progresses. The end was unexpected.
Dean Duncan
rated it really liked it
Jan 05, 2012
Jan 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: novels
a good solid read. Nice pace
rated it liked it
Feb 12, 2018
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Dec 07, 2014
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Brian Moore (1921–1999) was born into a large, devoutly Catholic family in Belfast, Northern Ireland. His father was a surgeon and lecturer, and his mother had been a nurse. Moore left Ireland during World War II and in 1948 moved to Canada, where he worked for the Montreal Gazette, married his first wife, and began to write potboilers under various pen names, as he would continue to do throughout ...more