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A Killing for Christ by Pete Hamill
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A Killing for Christ

by Pete Hamill

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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This book was Hamill’s first novel, originally published in 1968 and now being re-released for its 50th anniversary. I guess publishers don’t get this kind of opportunity very often—to release a 50th-anniversary edition while the author is still alive—because there doesn’t seem to be any better reason to republish this painfully dated novel.

In places, Hamill’s prose reads like he just escaped from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and raced to write down some thoughts and phrases before he forgot them. The descriptions feel like he is exercising a newly-discovered muscle on elements that don’t gain from a poetic description. In fact, the language just jars against the raw, unpolished, stream of consciousness thoughts that we get from several of the characters.

The story is ostensibly about a plan to assassinate the Pope on Easter Sunday. In actuality, it is Hamill’s unsubstantiated rant against the Catholic Church. The main character, a cynical American priest working in the Vatican (cleverly named Malloy) is disillusioned about just about everything, with only some vague references to the then-raging Vietnam war and his experience there as a chaplain to explain his beliefs and actions. Malloy is already a lost cause when we meet him, and he doesn’t seem to mind—he doesn’t really wrestle with anything in life, he merely endures it.

The characters are flat, the storyline is now lost in a sea of assassination stories—this is not The Day of the Jackal—by a long shot, and the descriptive details seem misplaced and pointless. Comparisons to John le Carre are a stretch at best and an insult to le Carre at worst.

If you hate the Catholic Church or want to, then you’ll probably enjoy this book. For the rest of us or those who want a thoughtful exploration of how one can lose their faith—Hamill’s ostensible theme for the book—we’ll have to look elsewhere for an intelligent or even entertaining read. ( )
  gpaisley | May 8, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Thanks to the publisher, Akashic Books, via LibraryThing, for an early review copy in exchange for my honest opinion.

This is the 50th Anniversary Edition of Mr. Hamill's debut novel and has a new author introduction. Since I had never read anything by him, I was anxious to see what kind of a writer he is. The publicity stated that this was a fast-paced thriller but I can't agree. I thought it moved slowly and was not suspenseful. There were no likable characters, the settings were mediocre and the content was dated since it was first published in 1968.

In his introduction, Hamill says he now considers the primary theme of this novel to be loss of faith. It's about a Catholic priest named Malloy, working in the Vatican and suffering from PTSD from serving in Vietnam. He suffers from flashbacks while putting in his time working and living/sleeping with a young Italian woman who has problems of her own. He discovers a plot to assassinate the Pope on Easter Sunday. The characters involved in the assassination plot are boring and disgusting as they try to get their act toether to accomplish their task. It seemed as though every paragraph reminded us of how hot, sticky, and sweaty the weather in Rome was during the days leading up to Easter Sunday.

I doubt that I will read any of Mr. Hamill's other novels but I am sure that, over the years, his writing and story lines have improved. ( )
  pegmcdaniel | Mar 28, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I enjoyed this book. The writing has real noir feel about it. I sometimes had trouble following it but all comes together in the end. The book's theme is a loss of faith, faith in the church, faith in oneself and faith in God. In the end, the wayward priest is the hope for the future of the church. ( )
  dianeham | Mar 22, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Even though this was originally published 50 years ago, it's message is relate-able in today's society. An assassination plot to kill the Pope on Easter Sunday , and the priest who has more than enough sins on his plate, tries to stop it. There are so many out there that believe that all things Vatican and Catholic are good, but the reality of greed and corruption is too overwhelming to not take at face value. Although I knew which direction the story was going, it was getting to know and understand each character and their relationship with not only GOD but themselves is what made this a dark, disturbing, and an excellent read. ( )
  beachbaby1124 | Mar 16, 2018 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Pete Hamill's debut novel is one of the darkest books I've ever read. I don't need likable characters in order to enjoy a novel, I don't need pleasant settings to enjoy them, and I don't need a thriller to be all action and no character development. And that's a good thing because there are almost no likable characters in A Killing for Christ, and the Italian setting (including the Vatican) is dark, dreary, and depressing. No one everyone in the book was pissed at the world and wanted out of the lives they were living.

Seems like the Vatican is so corrupt that a powerful insider and his minions want the Pope killed. Check that box. Seems like an American priest working in the Vatican for a complete jerk is more interested in sleeping with his young lover than in the Church. Check that box. Seems like the guy hired to assassinate the Pope is a moron American Nazi whose fantasies would be best sellers as snuff movies and porn films. Check that box. Lots of character development and one dud of an ending to this "thriller." Let's just say this wasn't too thrilling in any sense of the word, and it all makes me wonder why the publisher brushed it off for a 50th birthday reissuing. ( )
1 vote SamSattler | Mar 16, 2018 |
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