Review: The Archbishop in Andalusia

Posted 14 July, 2014 by Lianne in Books / 0 Comments

The Archbishop in Andalusia: A Blackie Ryan Novel
By: Andrew M. Greeley
Format/Source: Mass bound paperback; my copy

Ostensibly “Blackie” is in the historic city of Seville to attend a conference on American philosophy, but a far more critical assignment also requires his attention. The local cardinal has summoned the wily archbishop to Spain in hopes that Blackie can avert a murder before it happens.

The threat of violence hangs ominously over the regal palace of a family of wealthy Spanish aristocrats. Dona Teresa, a pious widow whose exotic beauty unsettles even Blackie, finds herself beset by avaricious relatives determined to control her life and fortune. A tangled web of obligations, traditions, and frustrated sexual desires binds the family together even as they bitterly contend against one another. With three generations of passionate nobility sharing the same roof, it seems only a matter of time before pride, greed, and lust leads to bloodshed.

But while the archbishop attempts to forestall a modern-day Spanish tragedy, dramatic events back in Chicago conspire to change his life forever. ..

Whoo-hoo, I’ve finally gotten around to reading this book! I’ve been eyeing this book ever since I picked up and read one of the other books in this series, The Bishop Goes to the University (review) because it was set in Spain 😀 This book is part of the Everything Espana Reading Challenge 2014 that I am participating in.

Blackie’s back in my reading list, an archbishop now and in Spain to attend a conference. Blackie unfortunately is not fond of travelling and is a bit grumpy about the prospect of sticking around Seville in its summer heat and strange culture. Despite of his dislike of travelling, he’s able to navigate through the intrigue that he’s surrounded in and gradually learns more about daily life (complete with siestas and copious amounts of tapas) and some of the ideas that permeate in certain generations. At times the critique is a bit too much–Blackie’s soon-to-be niece-in-law in particular is vocal about some of the values that Dona Teresa is latched on to–and required a reminder that those were the values that that particular generation grew up on.

The story itself was a slow build-up, as the reader spends time getting to know Dona Teresa and her family situation. Again, to readers in other cultures and value systems, her situation may seem outmoded and easy to fix, but again she is steeped in a very particular culture, archaic as it may be. You really gain a sense of what kind of people these characters are, what their desires and motivations are, their faults and general disposition. I enjoyed Blackie’s interactions with them and his usual multi-tasking of handling everyone’s various problems.

Although I enjoyed the character interactions, the story did take a while to develop and for Dona Teresa–to whom the mystery surrounded–‘s situation to be truly in danger/dire. There was also a segment of the story that totally took a different turn due to the secondary storyline concerning Cronin. It was interesting to learn more about the character’s backstory and family history, but I wasn’t as interested in that story and its sudden appearance in the narrative was a bit jarring.

The Archbishop in Andalusia was another interesting adventure to read featuring Blackie. He’s as witty as always, albeit a little grumpy this time around with the new locale, and I learned a lot from this story (for example, I really love that they included a bit of backstory and the translation to one of my favourite hymns, Pange Lingua; I never really looked it up before so now I have a better understanding of it and how it was written by my patron saint (well, I adopted him as my patron saint), St. Thomas Aquinas). The story also once again features the very humanist approach and understanding of the Catholic faith, which is also a nice feature, especially in contrast to the general understanding and stereotype of Catholics being guilt-ridden and rigid in tradition and law (which, it’s there, but the general population seems to not understand that there’s more to it, especially nowadays).

Rating: ★★★☆☆

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