Somerville Press £12.99
Church Times Bookshop £11.70 (Use code
BISHOP'S MOVE is a first novel by The Irish
Times's public-affairs correspondent, Colm Keena, whose
revelations of Taioseach Bertie Ahern's financial affairs created
an Irish political crisis in 2006. He faced prison for not
revealing his sources, but was exonerated.
The hero of Keena's book, a newly appointed bishop, Christopher,
also uncovers corruption in high places, and nearly pays for his
honesty with his life. This is a page-turner, and has all the
ingredients of a good thriller - power, politics, religion, money,
sex and violence. Its protagonist, bishop-despite-himself, is a
dogged but ingenuous character, sympathetically portrayed.
His priestly afflictions include the tendency to drink too much,
loneliness, naïvety, and poverty. But, as a bishop, he now mingles
with the ruling political and business people of the Celtic Tiger,
while having to remain uncorrupted himself. "Women find power
attractive," one siren tells him. Keena moved in these circles; so
he knows what he's talking about.
The writing is vivid, if sometimes one-dimensional.
Christopher's friend (also a bishop) John is lightly sketched, and
the politicians and businessmen are stereotypically ruthless; but
the women are more real characters: Keena catches nicely the
dilemma of Simone, the ambitious woman in a ruthless greedy world,
who challenges and enchants Christopher. His mother and next-door
neighbour are also both feisty individuals, their voices
Dublin is quite a character, too: but now it's in the last
throes of the good times, and desperate deals are being done:
Dubliners are spoiled and rich, with grandiose houses and offshore
bank accounts. And yet it is a small society, in which the top
people are as thick as thieves.
The narrative moves at a cracking pace. The violence is painful,
the love interest unsalacious. It is worth reading just for the
snapshot that it takes of Ireland, with its plutocrats, tycoons,
and the Roman Catholic Church all on the cusp of change. Our hero
just manages to make it to pastures new, and this reader was