The Color of Blood

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE COLOR OF BLOOD chronicles three crucial days in the life of Bem. After an attempt on his life in which one of two would-be assassins dies instead, Bem is taken into “protective custody” by Christian radicals posing as government security police. He has, however, an urgent reason to escape: He has learned that two of his bishops plan to defy him by turning an upcoming saint’s festival into an antigovernment demonstration. The cardinal fears that such a move can only lead to violence and furnish an excuse for martial law. He alone has the power to prevent a tragedy.

Bem escapes, going underground and facing extreme danger. Resurfacing, he must cope with suspicion from all quarters, including some co-religionists who accuse him of petty careerism. As he sees it, however, the church’s mission is to save souls, not to become politically embroiled. Despite periods of self-doubt--can he be sure he is free of earthly pride and lust for power?--Bem’s faith gives him strength to deal surely and effectively with a broad spectrum of adversaries. Meanwhile, what of the surviving assassin?

The man of God at the center of the maelstrom is vividly portrayed; his true motives remain clearly in focus. The author does an especially good job of revealing Bem’s inner life during the three-day crisis. Despite the brevity of this tale, a panoply of other characters is also clearly drawn.