FICTION: Villains in the Vatican

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THE VATICAN SWINDLE—Andre Gide—Knopf ($2.50). International scoundrelism conceives the abduction of Leo XIII,* surrounds the conception with an authentic verisimilitude that makes the act itself unnecessary and thus preys upon the wealthy religious, whose money is lavishly devoted to the liberation of the Pope from the Castle of St. Angelo, his restoration to the throne. This is the background. There are few characters. These, saints and sinners alike, register their reactions with rational fidelity except in the crises of the narrative. Precisely when they need to be most convincing they become incredible. One only, Protos, mastermind of the plot, arch-rogue and conspirator, reveals through all his many disguises a living, breathing man, as admirable a villain as ever emerged from an inkwell.

Readers who study literary tendencies, or wish to be early "in the know," will be interested in this new novel by the author, upon whom a coterie of critics has hastily draped the mantle of Anatole France. Other readers will find it a tale of mystery, written with distinction but not otherwise extraordinary. M. Gide's method, subtle or naive, presents the key of the mystery to the reader and makes his characters do all the groping.

*Gioacchino Pecci (1810-1903), Pope from 1878 to 1903.