BASILICA by William D. Montalbano


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The latest of the post-Woltyla Vatican thrillers to come on the market, this one by the late newspaperman and novelist (A Death in China, 1984, etc.). The priest with a shady past is almost as ubiquitous in certain types of thrillers as the prostitute with a heart of gold was in Westerns of a particular vintage, but in Montalbano’s story Paul Lorenzo never actually made it to ordination: —Once I was an on- the-edge cop, but now I—m a Roman Catholic brother, a kind of not- quite priest kicking around in the back alleys of the world’s largest church.— Paul heads the Vatican security office, a long way from the Miami homicide beat he used to walk. In Miami, he first met Pope Pius XIII, his current boss, back when His Holiness was still a Latin American bishop known as the —Cocaine Cardinal— for his fearless denunciations of the Caballero drug cartel. Paul foiled an assassination plot and saved the future pontiff’s life, only to have his wife and children killed by the Caballeros in retaliation. Now the Pope needs Paul on the job again. A priest has fallen to his death from the dome of St. Peter’s, and all the evidence points to murder. The victim, Monsignor Caruso, was seen as a leader of the new wave of liberal thinkers welcomed by the Pope into the Vatican, and Paul’s investigations lead him to the threshold of the Keys, an outfit bitterly opposed to all modernizing trends and secretly linked to the Caballeros. Is this Paul’s last chance for revenge? That’s not supposed to be on his mind, but sometimes a man’s got to do what he’s got to do—even if he wears a cassock. Formulaic and hackneyed, but written with plenty of action and a good, crisp pace: the sort of book you don—t put down until it’s finished—and then promptly forget it. (First printing of 75,000; $750,000 ad/promo)

Pub Date: Jan. 4th, 1999
ISBN: 0-399-14418-8
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 1998