"Cathedral," by Nelson DeMille, is a book I found in a box of books at my in-law's house in 1983. I remember when I found it because I know I read it before my husband and I went to New York City as part of a delayed honeymoon trip. To be honest, I can't remember details of the book, except to recall that I found it incredible gripping and amazingly detailed.
From Mr. DeMille's website, here's a description of the book:
"St. Patrick's Day, New York City. Everyone is celebrating, but everyone is in for the shock of his life. Born into the heat and hatred of the Northern Ireland conflict, IRA man Brian Flynn has masterminded a brilliant terrorist act - the seizure of Saint Patrick's Cathedral. Among his hostages: the woman Brian Flynn once loved, a former terrorist turned peace activist. Among his enemies: an Irish-American police lieutenant fighting against a traitor inside his own ranks and a shadowy British intelligence officer pursuing his own cynical, bloody plan. The cops face a booby-trapped, perfectly laid out killing zone inside the church. The hostages face death. Flynn faces his own demons, in an electrifying duel of nerves, honor, and betrayal…"
Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know that this is not the kind of book that I usually read. But then you also have probably noticed that I'm willing to read a variety of books. This one takes place almost entirely in St. Patrick's Cathedral and I had rarely read a book that painted such a vivid picture of a place. So when my husband and I went to New York City in the summer of 1983, I had to go see the cathedral. I'm not sure my husband quite understood the attraction, after all, we're not Catholic. But as someone who has more than a passing interest in architecture, he was willing to play along. When we first got into the cathedral, I was immediately reminded that this was not just another tourist attraction. There were, of course, people praying in there. So we quietly went to a middle pew where we could get a good look at everything without being too disruptive. I was almost giddy to realize that the picture that DeMille had painted in my head was so accurate that I could vividly see the characters moving around the place just as the book had described.
I've never re-read the book, nor have I ever read any other DeMille, but I still have the book. Because much as I have always loved to read, as many books as I had already read by that point in my life, that was the first book that had ever really made me realize that a vivid setting can be just as important to a book as the characters set in it.
Thanks to Alyce of At Home With Books for hosting My Favorite Reads.