Evil doings in Vatican finances are a dandy basis for colorful suspense--but this stiff, talky first novel never extracts anything but routine thrillerisms from the milieu, along with a pallid replay of papal politics a la Shoes of the Fisherman. Pope Gregory is dead, and the new pope is radical Pope Anthony I--which is bad news for conservative Cardinals, especially Cardinal Van Doom, director of the Vatican Bank; he's been investing Church funds with total disregard for religious/moral considerations, and he's now fearful that noble Pope Anthony will catch on to this rank capitalism. Worse yet, bankrupt super-tycoon Alessandro Bianchi is blackmailing Van Doom: either the Vatican gives Bianchi a $100 million loan (no interest) or he'll reveal that Van Doorn's investments have included incendiary Vietnam weaponry. The Cardinal agrees, but he insists that Bianchi help him to get some dirt on Pope Anthony's idealistic secretary, jogging American priest Martin Sykes--who happens to be keeping (platonic) company with Bianchi's ravishing journalist daughter Rafaella. (""I blackmail you, so you blackmail me, so I can blackmail my daughter, so you, in turn, can blackmail the pope."") When all this schemery backfires, however-Rafaella blackmails her father with family secrets--the Cardinal plans to kill the Pope (who's making waves by decrying counter-revolutionary Church doings in Peru) before the finance scandals are bared. Will Martin save the Pope before he's poisoned by the crazed Cardinal? It all develops very slowly--with constant dialogue recapitulations of the plot and cardboard characterizations--but it's relatively readable and inoffensive suspense fare (Tine resists the priestly-lust bit, though he does include one laughably gratuitous spot of rough sex), with a slight boost from the Vatican surroundings.