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Fiction

September 27, 1987|Harry Trimborn

IN THE NAME OF THE FATHER by A. J. Quinnell (New American Library: $17.95; 324 pp). Is nothing sacred? This thriller deals with a conspiracy by senior Vatican officials, who are willing to violate Christian ideals to kill the leader of the Soviet Union before the Kremlin can carry out another attack on the pontiff's life.

The cast mixes fictional individuals with real living ones, among them Pope John Paul II who is kept in the dark about the plans for the preemptive strike through sins of omission by his John Poindexter-like subordinates. The book jacket describes the work as "set on the cutting edge between documented fact and masterfully crafted fiction." It is an open question who is cut by this cutting edge. Archbishop Paul C. Marcinkus, former head of the Vatican bank, has sued to stop distribution of the book, which presents him as having attempted murder. There are other living clerics, who like the Pope and Archbishop Marcinkus, might be less than delighted to find their names in a book of this sort, especially in one that contains graphic sex scenes. No decision is expected in the case before next week.

Past and present Soviet officials are also named. The action, and there's plenty of it, takes place during the reign of the late Soviet leader Yuri V. Andropov, the target of the Vatican's hit man. Andropov was head of the KGB when John Paul was shot and wounded by Mehmet Ali Agca in May, 1981.

The hit man is the fictional Mirek Scibor, a renegade major from the Polish secret service who has his own reason for wanting to kill Andropov. Scibor's motive is "pure hatred" for Andropov for a "base and vile" act that Andropov had committed several years previously.

The time element involved in the motive is a significant flaw that reveals a lack of understanding of just how news of dramatic events gets around in East Bloc countries. Author Quinnell also doesn't give Andropov his proper title. These might be minor considerations in a thriller, except for Quinnell's intent to lend what the publisher calls "a sense of historical accuracy" to the tale by using the names of living persons.

Still, the author has fashioned an exciting, fast-paced and suspenseful thriller with many ingenious twists to the plot as Scibor overcomes one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after another in the relentless pursuit of his quarry. Such a protagonist is, of course, aided by a beautiful woman, in this case a virginal nun whom the wily clerical conspirators have enlisted in the plot to kill Andropov.

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