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The Third Secret: A Novel Mass Market Paperback – November 27, 2007

3.6 out of 5 stars 342 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

For Steve Berry, it's a fortuitous coincidence that his third novel, a Vatican-centered conspiracy thriller titled The Third Secret, was published in the immediate aftermath of Pope Benedict XVI's anointment in Rome. While this exuberantly contrived yarn would likely have drawn an audience at any time, it benefits from coming before readers just after they've been primed with news reports about papal succession, the relative influence and legacy of pontiffs, and the increasing tug-of-war between Roman Catholic progressives and conservative traditionalists.

Set in the near future, Secret introduces Jakob Volkner--Pope Clement XV--a German "caretaker pope" who, nearing the age of 80, was elected as John Paul II's successor. But three years into his papacy, the thoughtful Clement has begun to quietly express skepticism about papal infallibility and the Church's restrictive dogma, and to make odd requests of his longtime secretary, Monsignor Colin Michener, an Irish-born but American-reared priest whose vows of celibacy have been tested--and found wanting. Clement has also made repeated visits to a guarded sanctum within the Vatican archives, where sacred and historic documents are stored. And he's dispatched Michener to Romania to locate an elderly cleric who, in the 1950s, translated three cryptic prophecies, purportedly offered by the Virgin Mary in 1917 to a trio of children in Fatima, Portugal. Those secrets have since been fully disclosed to the world. Or have they? That’s the question facing Michener in the wake of Clement's shocking suicide, as he pursues a twisted trail of clues, crimes, and religious forecasts from Rome to Bosnia to Germany, accompanied by his former lover, journalist Katerina Lew. But making any additional secrets known to the world will put Michener in confrontation with doctrinal reactionaries, led by Cardinal Alberto Valendrea, the Vatican's Italian secretary of state, who's determined to follow Clement as the Vicar of Christ--even if that requires inventing a few new sins and flouting a 900-year-old prediction of doom for the next pope.

Attorney-author Berry, praised previously for The Amber Room and The Romanov Prophecy, enriches The Third Secret with glimpses behind the locked doors of a papal selection process and knowledge of centuries-old Catholic prognostications that, while employed judiciously in these pages, nonetheless suggest a prodigious amount of research. He's less successful with his casting. Valendrea is a wincingly unnuanced scoundrel, and Ms. Lew achieves scarce definition beyond being a raven-tressed temptress to powerful prelates. Thankfully, Berry does better by Michener, who finds himself at a crossroads, carrying on in Clement's name even as he searches for confirmation that his own life of devotion and service has been meaningful. Although the secrets "revealed" in this tale seem more controversial than plausible, and a potentially intriguing subplot about the excommunication of a maverick priest ends up as a throwaway device, The Third Secret builds to a conclusion that is as suspenseful and stunning as it is inevitable. Have faith. --J. Kingston Pierce --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Visions of the Virgin Mary, secret documents and politicking in the highest echelons of the Catholic Church—Berry (The Amber Room) combines combustive elements in this well-researched thriller. In 1917, the Virgin Mary revealed herself to three children in Fatima, Portugal, disclosing three secrets to the eldest, Lucia, who shared the first two secrets soon after their revelation but left the last to be disclosed upon her death. This third secret was released to Pope John XXIII in 1960 and made public by Pope John Paul II in 2000... or was it? The novel's stolid protagonist—Msgr. Colin Michener, longtime secretary to Clement XV, the novel's near-future successor to John Paul II—has reason to doubt the accuracy of the public version of the secret. Beleaguered by radically dogmatic cardinals and bishops, the embattled Clement XV also appears distressed by recent knowledge of secret documents regarding the Fatima messages. Before his inexplicable suicide, Clement sends Michener to Romania in search of a Father Tibor, who translated the third secret for Pope John XXIII and may hold the key to its mystery. Also on the case, if a step behind, is the ambitious and traditionalist Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Valendrea, with an eye on the papal throne. Da Vinci Code fans hungry for more may want a taste of this. Agent, Pam Ahearn. 10-city author tour. (June)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (November 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345504402
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345504401
  • Product Dimensions: 4.2 x 1.1 x 7.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (342 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #54,712 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Cory D. Slipman on August 2, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Steve Berry's "The Third Secret" is a blending together of religious fact with fiction to create a creditable thriller based upon doctrines set forth by the Vatican.

An appariton of the Virgin Mary observed by 3 peasant children in 1917 Fatima, Portugal and the disclosures made by her form the crux of the plot of the novel. The Virgin purportedly revealed 3 secrets, two of which were revealed by one of the children named Lucia. The third secret, however remained concealed within the walls of the Vatican only observed by papal eyes until its revelation in the year 2000.

Father Colin Michener, papal secretary to present pope Clement XV has served the former Cardinal of Cologne faithfully for years. They forged a father son relationship and Michener was concerned by the popes behavior. Pope Clement had been spending an inordinate amount of time in the Riserva, a Vatican library whose contents were reserved for papal use only. Clement was a progressive pope altering rather than sticking to the old doctrines of the Vatican.

Vatican Secretary of State Italian Cardinal Valendrea was at odds with Pope Clement. Having narrowly lost the papacy in the last conclave, Valendrea with lofty aspirations to become pope, favored a return to the princples of the past. Valendrea was a corrupt man using eavesdropping devices he had installed in the Vatican to keep members of the college of cardinals in line.

Pope Clement became aware that the third secret of Fatima stored in the Reserva seemed incomplete. He recruited Father Michener to discover the missing segment of the secret by travelling to Romania to speak with a Father Tibor, the original translator of the account of the peasant girl Lucia.
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Format: Hardcover
[Warning: SPOILERS ahead] This is a good read. It moves along at a fast pace, it deals with a real-life mystery (because the prophecy, when revealed in 2000, really didn't seem inflammatory enough to justify being kept secret for so long), and the wealth of detail about Vatican politics and procedures - however much of it may be accurate - is fascinating. I'd recommend it to anyone who wants mystery and excitement, in a book that's hard to put down, with some history lessons and thought-provoking controversy thrown in.

But there are a couple of irritants.

First, the writing style. Why does so much of the novel have to be written in the pluperfect tense? We are constantly reading `he'd done this' or `she'd said that', and the effect is that most of the book seems to be a series of recollections. A few flashbacks are fine, but this is overdone. And breaking up the narrative so that we switch back and forward between characters, each time leaving one at a cliffhanger moment, is a standard technique, but again, it becomes tiresome when it is done so repetitively. You feel like you're watching a TV show that has too many commercial breaks.

Second, the endorsement of abortion in Mary's messages is done in a heavy-handed way that makes you wonder if it was a last minute addition. `Hey, I've got away with having the Mother of God endorse priestly marriage, female priests, and homosexuality (though I think Berry is a bit ambivalent about that one - see below), maybe I can throw abortion in as well'. The desirability of priests being free to marry was well set up in the plot, but abortion just comes out of left field at the last minute.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Steve Berry is known for his historic-based fiction thrillers, and The Third Secret follows his usual formula. While definitely entertaining, the plot defies belief.

Father Colin Michener is the papal secretary for Pope Clement XV. Clement is obsessed with the visitations of the Virgin Mary at La Salette, Lourdes, Fatima and Medjugorje. He is especially intent on discovering the third secret of Fatima. Clement sends Michener to Romania and Bosnia in his efforts to uncover the truth. But there is another powerful member of the Vatican Curia who has knowledge of the third secret. He is so fearful of it coming to light that he has resorted to wiretapping, blackmail and even murder.

Berry weaves this tale around Roman Catholic history. In addition to the visitations, he also uses the predictions of St. Malachy of the 16th Century, Irish birthing centers in the 20th Century, and the procedures for papal succession. While the historic aspects were interesting, the plot was a stretch. Without giving away the plot, Fatima's third secret (as revealed in this book) is just totally unbelievable and would change almost all the core beliefs of the Roman Church. Most of the characters are also a bit over the top. Michener, an ordained priest and lawyer, is way too gullible. His former girlfriend, Katerina Lew, is totally self-centered and not very likable. Cardinal Alberto Valendrea is too Machiavellian, and his assistant, Paolo Ambrosi acts more like a Nazi SS officer than a priest.

While The Third Secret was a fast-paced thriller that kept my interest, it is not of the same caliber as other books of this genre including The DaVinci Code.
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