Saturday, November 5, 2011

Review: Cathedral

Nelson DeMille's Cathedral may be the best thriller ever written. Big words, but it's hard to think of another so well constructed and executed.

It's St. Patrick's Day in Manhattan and the city is gearing up for the big parade. Things go wrong when an IRA splinter group seizes hostages and takes control of St. Patrick's cathedral. Faced with impossible demands and bombs set to take down the cathedral at dawn, police, the National Guard, politicians, diplomats, and the Catholic Church scramble to come up with a plan.

This is a book you drink in – it doesn't even feel like reading. DeMille is a genius storyteller who knows to keep his writing out of the way of the action and make dialog snappy and realistic. Action and dialog are all there is. He tells where, what, who, when, and how and describes what things look, sound, smell, taste, and feel like. But he wastes few words on the thoughts or emotions of his characters, or any big themes that can't be gleaned from the facts described.

The only speed bump is readjusting to the pre-cell phone, pre-internet world of 1990 when the book was first published. But once passed that, the story hurtles along to the very last page. In fact, the story is more of a nail-biter now, in this post-9-11 world where buildings do actually fall down, than it would have been when it first came out.


If you would like your review of Cathedral or any other book my Nelson DeMille listed here, please leave a comment with a link and I will add it.


This counts as one of my four choices for the Chunkster Reading Challenge. It is only the second book I've read for the challenge, so so it is a good thing the challenge runs through the end of January. Maybe I can read two more by the end.

Wendy at caribousmom is hosting this fun challenge again this year.  The challenge post is here.


  1. I remember reading this many years ago and absolutely loving it. I must have read it back when mobile phones were only just on the way in, because I don't remember feeling that little speed bumb as you say. You're so right this is one thriller that I think really does stand the test of time.

  2. I would like to read Cathedral.

  3. Mel & Tea: I've been recommending it to people and everyone who has read it has loved it. I think it's a good one to tell people about when they ask for a good book.


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