The latest from Kennedy (The Now and Future Church; Queen Bee; etc.) centers on an American priest, his fiancÇe, and his reporter brother--all of whom get caught up in violent Vatican politics when outsiders seek to influence the election of the next Pope. Chicagoans James and Michael Tracey, the children of an unfairly disgraced cop, have become a big-time journalist and an unusually young monsignor, respectively. Michael was, in fact, on the fast track to a bishopric until he fell deeply in love with Sister Ann Coleman, M.D., who, returning his feelings, has resigned her religious orders. Just now Michael, who also writes on the side, is in Rome on assignment for the New York Times and using the opportunity to find out why the Vatican won't accept the resignation he has submitted with the intent of marrying Ann. Brother James is in Rome, too, working for Time magazine and trying like crazy to talk Mike out of leaving the priesthood when the Pope, a kindly Frenchman, dies under mysterious circumstances. The Traceys take it on themselves to find out why anyone would commit something as awful as papicide--and why terrorist bombs are going off all over the Eternal City. Their investigation involves them with Mother Hilda, an ascetic, mystic, German nun who predicted the old Pope's death; Cardinal Kiejson of the Netherlands, front-runner for the top job; his chief rival, Chicago's very political Cardinal Casey; the American ambassador to the Vatican, once a Chicago Mazda dealer; and numerous colorful Vatican bureaucrats. The mystery unravels while the College of Cardinals is sealed incommunicado in order to do politics in the Sistine Chapel. Not as wild as it sounds. Alas. The robust Chicago underpinnings are all too often draped with tasteful velvet.