Books: The Wages of Guilt

THE MERCY OF GOD (310 pp.)—Jean Cau—Atheneum ($5).

On the floor of the prison cell, the cockroach struggles frantically to escape its burning bed of straw. "Confess you're not a saint," shouts one convict hovering over the minuscule pyre, "or else the fire of heaven will consume your flesh amid hideous sufferings." Cries another: "Confess that the Prince of Evil has appeared to you and seduced you, but that you see the light and that repentance floods your heart." But the roach says nothing and goes up in flames. "She's damned. God forgive her."...

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