The Last Pope
Luis Miguel Rocha
Putnam, Aug 2008, $24.95
In 1978 with the death of the Pope, the College of Cardinals meets in the Vatican to elect his successor. The Cardinals are divided into two extreme camps between traditionalist Cardinal Agosto Mancini and change agent Cardinal Ignatius Heriot. Thus an unacceptable comprise Cardinal Don Albino Luciani is chosen to sit as John Paul I on the papal throne. He makes clear his intention is to clean up and out the House of God everywhere; a little over a month later, he dies with rumors he was murdered for his ethical cleansing campaign especially to end church-mob ties. A second College of Cardinals session elects Karol Józef Wojtyła of Poland as Pope John Paul II.
Three decades later London journalist Sarah Monteiro receives a letter that insists Pope John Paul I was murdered and the attempts to kill his successor were from the same conspiratorial group who also killed Sweden’s Prime Minister Olof Palme. However, Sarah assumes this is a hoax worth checking into, but soon believes the accusations are true when several attempts to assassinate her occur. Due to the grace of God she lives, but fears her days are numbered in single digits.
Conspiracy fans will relish the constant power struggle within the highest levels of the Catholic Church. Luis Miguel Rocha builds his exciting story line upon the underlying premise that Pope John Paul I was murdered. The look back to behind the scenes shenanigans by the competing Cardinals in 1978 is fascinating whether one accepts Mr. Rocha’s assertion or not. The present scenario with Sarah on the run is more action-packed, but not quite as interesting as three decades ago is. Still thriller fans will enjoy THE LAST POPE wondering how acrimonious poisoning politics even enter the selection of who will wear The Shoes of the Fisherman (by Morris West).