(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Moore continues to explore the possibilities of the historical novel by writing a political thriller that is as entertaining as it is thought-provoking. An elderly man, Pierre Brossard, is pursued by a nameless figure in southern France. The reader is led to believe that Brossard, because of his age, is a defenseless victim until he suddenly brandishes a pistol, shoots his pursuer, and rolls his car off a high mountain road. Among the dead man’s possessions is a document indicating that Brossard is a former chief in the Vichy government responsible for the execution of fourteen Jews in 1944. The novel quickly evolves into an intricate game of cat and mouse as government officials search and Brossard hides in one monastery or abbey after another.

The novel offers a sophisticated psychological study of a depraved soul in torment. On the surface, the central situation—a Nazi sympathizer escaping justice—does not provoke sympathy in most readers. Yet Moore so finely developed his character that Brossard is by turns thoroughly contemptible and oddly pitiable. Through much of the novel the reader cannot determine whether Brossard is a depraved killer or a victim of overzealous officials looking to place blame on a convenient scapegoat. In a clever dream sequence the reader eventually learns that Brossard is all that his accusers have contended.

Brossard is not only a study in persecution but an example of a thoroughly self-absorbed creature as...

(The entire section is 521 words.)