From Publishers Weekly
The election of Don Albino Luciani to the papal throne in 1978 threatens the Vatican status quo in this routine thriller from Portuguese author Rocha, his first novel. John Paul I's views on papal infallibility and such controversial subjects as birth control, not to mention his resolve to clean house of those men of God who sullied the Roman Catholic church by financial chicanery with mob links, lead to his murder soon after he becomes pope. In the present-day, London journalist Sarah Monteiro receives a letter implicating the pope's killers. The same shadowy band turns out to be behind the attempt on the life of John Paul II as well as the assassination of Swedish prime minister Olof Palme. Sarah struggles to stay alive and keep the evidence out of the wrong hands amid predictable action sequences and hairbreadth escapes. An author interview at book's end claiming that John Paul I was actually murdered is sure to please conspiracy buffs. (Aug.)
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Rocha is not the first author to allege that Pope John Paul I did not die of natural causes 33 days into his reign in September 1978. This blend of fact and fiction centers on papers pointing to the Vatican’s financial involvement in corruption, through the mysterious Masonic Lodge P2, and the new pope’s intent to replace those involved and to liberalize various church positions. In nonstop action jumping between New York and several European capitals, papers revealing the plot—sent by a priest to his goddaughter, a Portuguese journalist—are hunted down by those who fear their exposure, including a corrupt CIA official. The action is so fast, with a rising murder count along the way, that readers need to be attentive to connect dots and follow multiple plot threads (including the third secret of Fatima). Rocha, convinced that the pope was murdered, includes information clarifying which characters are historical. Although the novel is likely to appeal to fans of conspiracy theories and readers of Dan Brown, it sacrifices storytelling for making the case about the death of the pope. --Michele Leber