THE POPE'S ASSASSIN by Luís Miguel Rocha


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No nuns with guns here, but plenty of Jesuits with Berettas.

The action is plentiful and also plenty confusing in this Portuguese knockoff of The Da Vinci Code. The secret involves an agreement that is revealed to every pope on the first night he’s elected to that office. In this case, it’s Cardinal Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, who reads the letter and immediately begins to sweat. It seems a document has been held in safekeeping for 50 years by archeologist Ben Isaac, one of the discoverers of the Dead Sea Scrolls. If it’s ever revealed, this document—the Gospel of Jesus—could quite possibly cause both consternation and a huge crisis of faith among Catholic believers. But two 25-year agreements have passed, and the confidential agreement is not renewed. Enter a cadre of well-trained and lethal Jesuits, determined to get their hands on the documents. They kidnap Ben Isaac’s son to exert pressure on the father (and Holy Father). Also, the Status Quo, a group of five men who along with Ben Isaac made the discovery of the Scrolls at Qumran valley in 1947, begin to get knocked off with grisly abandon. Sarah, a journalist and scholar of Vaticaniana, is pressed into service as a document deliverer, and her lover Francesco becomes bewildered about where Sarah’s loyalties lie. And then things get really confusing as a bewildering assortment of priests (both Jesuit and non-), Vatican eminences, CIA agents and vicars of the church vie for power. Also involved in the secretive fray are the bones of Jesus—are they real, or is this just another Jesuit conspiracy? Rocha flummoxes the reader with a body count that becomes almost incalculable. Who are all these people getting iced in various creative ways, including a priest whose eye is gouged out by a holy relic? Ultimately, the reader both loses count and ceases to care.

An uninspiring combination of complexity of plot and simplicity of character.

Pub Date: March 31st, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-399-15688-5
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15th, 2011