I recently came across this chilling conversation in The Nature of the Beast (2015). Retired Chief Inspector Armand Gamache is questioning a physics professor about a suspect, Gerald Bull. The professor speaks first:
"... no one really worked with Gerald Bull. It might start out that way, but eventually you found yourself working for him."
"Were you working for him when he came up with the plans for the Supergun?"
"No. I left when he began using the Soviets as a back door to sell his arms. He wasn't very smart."
"Is that why you left? Fear you'd get caught?"
"No. I left because it was wrong. ... Gerald Bull was the consummate salesman, and completely without a conscience."
"Why did you just say that he wasn't very smart?" asked Gamache.
"He made some stupid choices, like cozying up to the Soviets. He had an outsized ego that told him he was smarter than other people."
No, Ms Penny is not alluding to Donald Trump.
|[Hand-colored woodcut, 1523,|
for Martin Luther's New Testament]
Penny's stories tend to have literary, not political, themes, and this book is no exception. In it she frequently mentions an image from the biblical book of Revelation, chapters 17 and 18: the great whore who--riding a fearsome seven-headed beast--glorifies herself and lives luxuriously, consorts with kings and merchants, helps them become rich and powerful, and deceives all nations.
But don't feel bad if your first thought was that the passage referred to Trump, not the great whore. Feel bad because the two have so much in common.