THE POPE’S ASSASSIN By Luis M. Rocha [Review]
Sometimes I think Dan Brown and his publisher have a lot to answer for. I’m sure you all know what I mean, we are being buried in piles of religious conspiracy theory novels, the likes of which the publishing world has never seen. I’ll grant some of them are very good, far better than Brown, and might never have seen the light of day without his Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code. Then there are the others, ones that might have started a strong series and are slowly being absorbed into overly complex plot and increasingly ridiculous premises. Why am I mentioning all this? The latest book by Luis M. Rocha THE POPE’S ASSASSIN.
On the night he ascends to the Throne of St. Peter, the newly elected Pope Benedict the XVI is handed a secret document. (I’m sure there are actually a lot of them, but in this case there is only one.) It’s the kind of document that can, of course Change The World (cue dramatic music). In this case, it’s the Gospel of Jesus and possibly the bones of Christ himself. This information is tied up with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, and the fun begins. The artifacts are in the possession of Ben Isaac, and in the power struggle between the Jesuits and the Vatican, Isaacs ends up in trouble. People start dying, secret documents pop up everywhere. And of course in the middle, Father Rafael, the Vatican’s shadowy priest/operative is sent in to investigate with his old friend Sarah Monteiiero, the British journalist who has aided him in the past.
Feeling confused? I don’t blame you, I was too. In fact, this is one of those books you really need to sit down with a notepad and jot down a who’s who at the beginning. Believe me, a few seconds spent doing this will make the book far more enjoyable. You will really need it. I pride myself in being able to keep track of people and plot points and after a couple of chapters dragged out a pad myself. I’m not sure that’s a plus in a book, when you have to keep referring back to a list to see who is supposed to be doing what with them when someone else is doing that with those.
The intricacies of Church politics might be a little off-putting for some readers as well. If you are a real die-hard reader of the genre, you might enjoy it, but the casual reader will find a lot of it preachy or a little like an academic lecture on the politics of the Vatican. I actually skipped over a lot of it, looking for the action. I went to a Jesuit University and rather enjoyed the Jesuits as bad guys, or sort of bad guys in the novel. The struggle between the Vatican and the Jesuit Order is a long one and it was interesting to see it crop up in a novel again.
Finally, I would like to say a word about the action. There is a fair amount of it, and it is rather, um, gruesome. Now, I have no problem with a good blood-splattering murder, but this book racks up a body count as impressive as a lot of big-screen blood and gore action flicks.
The Pope’s Assassin is not really a bad read. It has action, mystery and enough conspiracies to keep anyone happy. On the down side, it can be confusing at times, and the plot line does run off into some almost ridiculous areas. Still, it’s not the worst of the genre, and Rafael and Sarah are likeable. If you enjoy Dan Brown, or similar books, you should give Rocha’s The Pope’s Assassin a try.
Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: Putnam Adult | Pages: 400 | Source: Publisher | Buy on Amazon