Death of a Pope

by Piers Paul Read

  General / Favorable Reviews
  Critical Reviews

In The Death of a Pope, the versatile Piers Paul Read, who has distinguished himself in many genres, returns to what can be called the ecclesiastical thriller. If the mystery looks to the past to explain a crime already committed, the thriller aims to prevent something from happening. When that something is a terrorist act, planned for the Vatican, drama is assured, and Read, writing in the present tense but in multiple viewpoint, takes us from character to character, from city to city, from continent to continent, with everything converging on the Vatican during the conclave following the death of John Paul II. To say more would rob the reader of his pleasure. The Death of a Pope is a great Read - in every sense of the term.

- Ralph McInerny

The Death of a Pope is a faith-driven theological thriller, narrated by a storyteller of the first order whose unassailable orthodoxy is as refreshing as it is rare among the bedraggled ranks of contemporary novelists.

-Joseph Pearce, author The Quest for Shakespeare

Piers Paul Read has managed to combine sheer storytelling power with great learning and insight about the inner workings of the Church to fashion an entertainment of the highest order. If John LeCarre took on Vatican politics, his book of suspense might aspire to be much like this one.

-Ron Hansen, author Exiles

If you love the Catholic Church, you will probably love this book whether or not you love a good story. If you love a good story, you will probably love this book whether or not you love the Catholic Church. But if you love both the Church and a good story, you will certainly love this book.

- Peter Kreeft, author Because God is Real


  Read's latest worth a read ***

Complex plot, great pacing, interesting characters...I couldn't put the book down. I recognized a lot of people who could have been the inspiration for these characters. The magnetic ex-priest-turned-political-warrior Uriarte as he grooms Kate to participate in advancing his agenda; the chivalrous and straight-forward British agent David; the kindly, conservative but marginalized priest Luke: these people play out their roles in a classic good vs. evil tale. Piers Paul Read does an excellent job of introducing, and then following, all the threads of the story. It is not a huge, door-stopper of a book, but it packs its punch concisely.

A few quibbles, which affected the rating. Why not hire a proofreader and/or fact-checker? There were several small but irritating errors that made me think the editors barely read the final manuscript. Worse then that, the old "Polish cavalry vs. the German tanks, Tanks win" tale was trotted out. This incident is largely responsible for generations of Polish jokes. How dumb, that a cavalry unit would try to attack armored tanks!

(What ACTUALLY happened was that a Polish cavalry unit came upon a German patrol, which they engaged. While that was going on, enemy tanks entered the fray and annihilated the Poles. An Italian journalist happened upon the scene and interpeted it creatively, thus reducing the fearless and noble Polish military to a bunch of idiotic clods.)

But even that reference doesn't much affect the main storyline, it's just a personal peeve.

I also didn't think Kate's theology major in college rang true. She seemed a bit unschooled in that area, and not overly familiar with her religious heritage (though you'd think an English Roman Catholic would have to be). I think this was a device so that the average reader could be instructed on Catholicism, but it was unnecessary. All the information gleaned from Kate's conversations and thoughts could have been folded into the background of the novel.

So, read this book for intrigue and suspense, not for theological/religious/historical information.

You'll be glad you did.

-Mary Esterhammer-Fic



  London, Rome, Kampala, Cairo, and Multiple Layers of Cultural, Political, and Theological Currents *****

Best selling novelist ("Alive," "The Templars," "Alec Guiness:The Authorized Biography") and playwright Piers Paul Read has written a gem of a thriller, "The Death of a Pope." London, Rome, Kampala, Cairo and multiple layers of cultural, political, and theological currents provide the backdrop for a suspected terrorist's intent to change the future course of the Catholic Church with the death of Pope John Paul II.

Read begins with a London trial related to the use of Sarin by terrorists at a time when the world is focused on a dying John Paul II and growing speculation on the next pope...and the future of orthodoxy within the Catholic Church. One of the defendants, Juan Uriarte, a laicized ex-Jesuit priest whose liberation theology led him from El Salvador to Africa narrowly escapes conviction, proceeds with his plan for a catastrophic event during the conclave to elect a new pope.

Throughout the book, through various characters - the lapsed Catholic, Kate Ramsay, a reporter who is attracted to Uriarte and becomes his puppet; Father Luke, a traditionalist priest, who learns that his niece, Kate, was in grave danger and becomes a hero; David Kotovsky, a young M15 (British Security Service), who remained convinced Uriarte was up to something; and Dutch Cardinal Doornik, the essence of a "moderate" liberal, who becomes an unwitting accomplice - Read integrates his talent and his faith to highlight the various shades of evil we face in this post-Christian era.

"The Death of a Pope" is an excellent religious spiritual novel highlighting cultural and theological issues of the post-9/11 and post-Vatican II era. It is hard to put down once the action begins.

-Thomas M. Loarie




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