Customer Reviews: Cathedral
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on June 29, 2002
Don't even think of what a grand revolutionary gesture it would be to blow up St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City! This is the premise of Nelson DeMille's hefty (575 pages) ambitious thriller.
A group of 12 fiery Irish revolutionaries led by charismatic Brian Flynn have minutely planned to take four carefully chosen hostages, seize and mine the cathedral and threaten to blow it up at dawn the following day unless their demands are met to free political prisoners jailed in Northern Ireland by the British. The hostages are the Archbishop of New York, the British Counsel General, a parish priest, and Maureen Malone, a former terrorist with close ties to Brian Flynn, but now a peace activist.
Mr. DeMille pulls it off. He drives the breath-taking pace by fast cuts from Belfast, to the cathedral, to the desperate workings of the police and government to foil the attempt. The military precision of the takeover is meticulously described (thank goodness for the map of St. Patrick's!) in fascinating detail. Precisely drawn vignettes of the supporting cast as well as the major characters inspire the reader's care and interest in the outcome on large and small levels. The author is wickedly adept at portraying politics at its worst when revealing the tangled motives of the Mayor, the New York Police Dept., the Governor of New York, the British and Irish Consulates, the CIA and FBI. The revolutionaries are a complex lot, some with fire and vision, others stone killers, and some innocents that break your heart.
In one way it reminded me of "Apollo 13" in that you knew the astronauts would be rescued (historical fact), but you got so wrapped up in the story you feared for their very lives. I know St. Patrick's is still standing in all its glory, but while reading "Cathedral" I so suspended belief that I gave 3-1 odds that it wouldn't be standing by mid-morning the next day!
The author does a better job of delineating men then women. The women were not one-dimensional, but enigmatic as to their motives and reactions. The men were marvelous mixtures of good and bad, bravery and cowardice, humor and madness---until you could see them standing before you. I did find myself wondering throughout: where did this rag tag group get the money to mount such a complicated offensive? This aspect could have been clarified.
"Cathedral" is a satisfying read. Call it escapism or just plain good ole story telling, I felt as if I was there every moment and had a total investment in the outcome.
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on March 22, 2000
Cathedral is absolutely one of the top ten best books that I have ever read. DeMille gives the reader a great history lesson on the struggles of Northern Ireland, an indepth look into the psyche of the people who know no other world than one of violence begetting violence, and a glimpse at what our government officials will do to further their own careers no matter the cost.
This is my fourth Nelson DeMille novel, and I find it interesting, having read some of is later works first,how his style has evolved over the years. I found that Cathedral read much like The Charm School as far as the writing syle went, and possibly Burke's character in Cathedral laid the groundwork for John Corey in DeMille's later works, Plum Island and The Lion's Game.
With each novel I have a greater appreciation for DeMille. He may not pump out books every 6 months like some of constituents, but the time in between each novel is obviously spent doing painstaking research. He leaves no stone unturned.
Keep 'em coming Mr. Demille
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on January 11, 2001
This was an extraordinary book that has kept me up at nights reading, as I got drawn into its suspensful and intriguing plot. Nelson DeMille, a former U.S. Army lieutenant in Vietnam, is the author of many acclaimed novels, such as "The General's Daughter" which was made into a movie. "The Cathedral" is my favorite DeMille book, as it's rich characterization, amazing plot, and thrilling suspense simply cannot be ignored.
Cathedral is full of action, politics, and romance. The whole story takes course in just one fateful day. In New York City, while people are happily celebrating St. Patrick's Day, they are unaware of an ingeniously masterminded terrorist act taking place. A renegade group of IRA terrorists have taken over St. Patrick's Cathedral, taking hostage four VIPs in the city. The leader of the terrorists is Brian Flynn, a man devoted to the cause of freeing his family and friends imprisoned by the English in Northern Ireland. The terrorists threaten to destroy the Cathedral and kill the hostages, if their demands are not met by dawn. The world is watching, waiting for the final outcome of dawn, as the 'electrifying' duel between the Police and the terrorists ensues.
In Cathedral, characterization is a major plus. By the end of the book, you can really relate with the characters, and feel like you've known them all your life. There are about five major characters in the novel, each with his/her own background, aspirations, and unique personality. Due to such great characterization, Nelson DeMille really creates a strong and realistic human drama that is emotionally engaging. In addition, there is plenty of fast-paced action that always kept me on the edge of my seat. The plot is so suspenseful, that you can't let go of the book. Here is a memorable quote, "I was about two seconds late¡¦ Then there was a strange sort of a feeling¡¦like a presence¡¦in this business they talk about having an Angel on your shoulder while you work-you know? God Almighty, I had a regiment of them." The use of such elaborate dialogue makes this book so enjoyable. It definitely makes you want to find out more and more about what is happening, and how each character is involved.
The only weakness I see in the book is the slow beginning. The beginning chapter of the book is slow-paced, as it sets the tone for the book. Also, at times the architectural description of the Cathedral was confusing, and hard to imagine what the layout is actually like (of the Church).
This is an exceptional book overall, with a great plot, detailed and interesting characters, and realistic human drama. I strongly recommend this book for everyone, whether you like action, drama, romance, or mystery, Cathedral is all that and more. Nelson DeMille has created another literary masterpiece.
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on September 15, 2005
This Nelson Demile novel of political espionage mixed with religious and historical clashes kept me turning the pages faster, and faster the deeper the plot sank. Though it had a very slow beginning, the fast paced ending made up for it and then some. To me this novel was a true indicator of how great and ingenious of an author Nelson Demile really is.

The plot takes place in New York City on Saint Patrick's Day. It was supposed to go like it had in the past years but Irish Terrorist Brian Flynn had a different idea in mind. He thought of an amazing plan consisting of Irish Terrorism and heroism. He and ten other terrorists from the anti British Group IRA took over saint Patrick's Cathedral and four very important hostages with it. His plan was twisted yet brilliant and he wouldn't stop till he got what he wanted, which was...

My favorite character in this story is of course the villain, Brian Flynn. To me he exhibits the most heroic accts and intelligence in the whole story. I also think that without him there would be no story and/or plot in the story. My least favorite character is another terrorist. Her name was Megan Fitzgerald. I think that she has no respect for anyone in then story except herself, and she was especially ruthless to the hostages.

This Novel was very good. I would consider it a work of art. Even for Nelson Demile who has many big hits and bestsellers this book would be considered in his top five of all time. It kept me guessing throughout and that is what I like in a book. If you just keep going through the beginning you will like it. For someone who is just plain out looking for a good entertaining story, I would recommend this book to them. I would give it four stars.
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on July 21, 1998
Nelson Demille is one of the best authors of suspense fiction living today and definitely my favorite. That's why I was so disappointed in "Cathedral." Unlike his other books which had powerful, likable main characters with brains and an ironic wit, Cathedral lacked anyone I could relate to or care about. The story, however fantastic, was interesting, but the book just didn't have the heart-racing, pulse-pounding pace of his other works. I found myself caring about the outcome of the seige at St. Pat's Cathedral only because it meant that the book would FINALLY be over and I could go re-read "Charm School" and rediscover why I love Nelson Demille's work.
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VINE VOICEon November 18, 2000
Nelson DeMille is one of my favorite authors, and he did not disappoint with this thriller. Unlike many authors, DeMille is not a formulaic writer and each book covers a diverse topic requiring intense research. His acumen for finely drawn characters and breath-holding suspense are evident in Cathedral. Although not as good as Charm School or Word of Honor, still this is worth reading. Keep 'em coming Nelson.
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on August 22, 2000
This was a very interesting book. It had goos heroes,it had evil villains, and a very good plot. DeMille covered the situaion of the Seizing of the Cathedral very well. By using his characters in the story DeMille was able to show both sides of the situation. The history of the Irish scene was shown well by the use of the Irish terrorist Hickey. The use of Saint Patrick's Day as the day of invasion of Saint Patrick's Cathedral also came off very well. DeMille also used his police personnel very skill- fully to make the story interesting.Major Martin,the British Consulate in the story was established as a major villain in the story. The finale,the rescue operation of the Chapel was well done. The sniper,Leary came off as a cold blooded killer. The revenge on Major Martin was also good. This is a very well written book. A definite must read
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on January 14, 2005
Much like the novel By the Rivers of Babylon, this novel has a big cast of characters and lots of action and intrigue. DeMille captures the politics involved and shows some evil and good on both sides of the fight.

One of the reasons I love DeMille so much is unfortunately missing in this novel, and that's a first person point of view protagonist. However, there is one main character that is hero of the novel, and while not quite as good, it's reads great and overall the whole story is great.

No need to go over the plot line and details again, so I'll just say that if you enjoy DeMille, you'll like this one too, if you've never read him, well, this is as good a place to start as any, but keep in mind that some of his other novels are quite different.

DeMille is a great novelist if you haven't tried out some of his stuff, you're missing out.
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on November 12, 2001
This great story lets the reader into the minds of the characters on each side of the seige. DeMille has a way of making you care about each of the characters (good and bad). He even does a good job of giving life to most of the supporting characters. His characters are great, the dialog is top notch (as always), and his setting is amazing. I've never seen St. Patricks Cathedral, but DeMille made it very easy to visualize it (the diagrams in the front were a great touch).
I've always described reading a DeMille book as watching a movie in your mind. This one is no exception. The action and suspence are great. If you can, read the last section in one sitting. It will be worth it, and I bet you won't be able to put it down at that point anyway.
Also recommend Plum Island, and Jeffery Deaver's The Devil's Teardrop and A Maiden's Grave.
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on September 30, 2003
Given 9/11, an international terrorist attack within the US is believable and almost expected. But this predates that horrible day, and captures some of the confusion such an event would mushroom.
There are a broad range of characters in the book and they all have moderate substance to them.
The author does a good job of portraying the sentiments of an "occupied" people. And, quite rightly, paints a dark picture of the ways, means and morality of British intelligence agencies. It also captures the ridiculous, irresponsible nature of bureaucracies and politicians when they are plunged into unfamiliar territory.
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