Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Fresh from three novels on Cicero's Rome (Imperium; Conspirata; Dictator), Harris takes on the papacy. The pope has died. Many of the cardinals were alarmed by his populism: they hope to elect a conservative and reverse his reforms. The College of Cardinals-118 in number-meets in closed session; only their final decision will be transmitted to the faithful in St. Peter's Square. Four prelates quickly emerge as front-runners: two Italians, one liberal, one archconservative; a showy French Canadian; and a charismatic African (the first black pope?). The first surprise: the conclave is joined by a newcomer, secretly appointed archbishop of Baghdad by the old pope. Further surprises disqualify or weaken first one candidate, then another. In the face of terrorist attacks outside, the church needs to present a united front, but the cardinals can't agree on a single candidate. They finally settle on a pope. Yet just when you think the story is over, there's a new, even more sensational bombshell. Verdict Although it lacks the gravitas of Harris's admirable "Ancient Rome" trilogy, this work still offers an enjoyable read, with its insider details of life at the Vatican. [See "Editors' Fall Picks 2016," LJ 9/1/16.]-David Keymer, Modesto, CA © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
Thriller Award-winner Harris (Dictator) successfully dramatizes the selection of a new pope. In the near future, the pontiff dies suddenly of a heart attack, and the Vatican leadership works fast to ensure an orderly transition. The process is conveyed from the perspective of Cardinal Jacopo Lomeli, the dean of the College of Cardinals, a rational and sympathetic figure who a month earlier sought permission to retire to a religious order. As the cardinals gather from around the world to vote, factions quickly develop around the leading contenders, including Joshua Adeyemi of Nigeria, who's seeking to become the first black pope, and Lomeli's successor as the Vatican's secretary of state, Aldo Bellini. Bellini gives Lomeli a glimpse at the hidden turmoil at the Vatican when he reveals that on the day of the Holy Father's death, the dying pope confided to Bellini that he had lost faith in the church. As the maneuvering for command continues, Lomeli must try to steer a path toward consensus. This is another impressive outing from an extremely versatile author. Agent: Michael Carlisle, Inkwell Management. (Nov.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Book Review
Harris, creator of grand, symphonic thrillers from Fatherland (1992) to An Officer and a Spy (2014), scores with a chamber piece of a novel set in the Vatican in the days after a fictional pope dies.Fictional, yes, but the nameless pontiff has a lot in common with our own Francis: hes famously humble, shunning the lavish Apostolic Palace for a small apartment, and he is committed to leading a church that engages with the world and its problems. In the aftermath of his sudden death, rumors circulate about the popes intention to fire certain cardinals. At the center of the action is Cardinal Lomeli, Dean of the College of Cardinals, whose job it is to manage the conclave that will elect a new pope. He believes it is also his duty to uncover what the pope knew before he died because some of the cardinals in question are in the running to succeed him. In the running is an apt phrase because, as described by Harris, the papal conclave is the ultimate political backroomalbeit a room, the Sistine Chapel, covered with Michelangelo frescoes. Vying for the papal crown are an African cardinal whom many want to see as the first black pope, a press-savvy Canadian, an Italian arch-conservative (think Cardinal Scalia), and an Italian liberal who wants to continue the late popes campaign to modernize the church. The novel glories in the ancient rituals that constitute the election process while still grounding that process in the real world: the Sistine Chapel is fitted with jamming devices to thwart electronic eavesdropping, and the pressure to act quickly is increased because rumours that the pope is dead are already trending on social media. An illuminating read for anyone interested in the inner workings of the Catholic Church; for prelate-fiction superfans, it is pure temptation. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.