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The Last Pope by Luís M. Rocha
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The Last Pope (2006)

by Luís M. Rocha

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Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
The book is interesting enough to finish, and contains some good ideas, making one wonder where it all went wrong. Giving the author some credit, one has to wonder if the translation is the culprit. In the original language in which it was written it is perhaps a real page turner, and a great book. In this particular English translation, it falls short. The book makes contradictory statements, and the writing is too simplistic, explaining to us for example that a remark mentioned was sarcastic instead of trusting the reader to figure this out for him/herself. The style is so atrocious that it makes you cringe when you read. There is no lack of a plot but it's execution is abysmal. This could have been an exciting book, making the reader wonder what happens next?, but instead it is just an average book although, highly readable making the reader wonder what happened and why were we led on this goose chase? ( )
  Hanneri | Apr 24, 2013 |
Pope John Paul I reigned over the Catholic Church for 33 days in 1978. The premise of this book is that he was murdered. By a shadowy group called the P1 who are, for the record, more dastardly and secretive than the dastardly and secretive P2. Thirty years later a journalist receives a list of names. An Italian man tries to kill her. So does the CIA. Someone whose name isn’t Jack Payne tries to stop them. Oh, and the Americans can’t kill Castro.

Though odd, the above paragraph makes more sense than the book (and it’s a heck of a lot shorter so you should thank me for saving you).

The Last Pope has the Vatican, a pretty young woman, a rascally, acerbic offsider for the aforementioned young woman, a secret code, photographs with images that can only be seen under ultra-violet light, a list of shadowy figures, Masons and a seduction scene.

If all it took to make a great thriller was the sum of such parts then The Last Pope would have been readable. But a thriller needs more than the right ingredients. So it wasn’t. Readable that is. Reasons include:

The writing is pedestrian (for example within three short paragraphs the same man is described as having perspiration streaming down his face, hands slippery with sweat, perspiration clouding his eyes and being in a cold sweat) (even if the original Portuguese has four different words for sweat I doubt there was a need to use them all in one page)

The construction is bamboozling with its short chapters jumping in time from 1978 to earlier to the present and, for all I know, several periods in between. Some of these jumps are identified by chapter headings but many are not (to the point that I began to think that someone dropped the manuscript on the way to the printer and all the chapters got put back together out of order)

Many of the characters have no names (The Italian Man, The Master, The Subject etc) but this is balanced out by the fact that those who do have names have several each. So it’s usually about as clear as mud who is talking or being referred to.

Perhaps worst of all is that the thing doesn’t know if it wants to be a novel (i.e. fiction) or an expose (i.e. fact). In a bizarre author interview that appears at the end of the book Mr Rocha claims that it’s all true and that the character of JC (who is the assassin) (trust me that isn’t a plot spoiler) is based on the real assassin who he (Mr Rocha has spoken with). I might be more inclined to swallow all this if the author hadn’t in the same interview also said (1) Assumptions will be replaced by confirmed facts in a future edition (2) He has never received a bad review (he has, I’ve read them and claiming they don’t exist is on par with me claiming the chocolate cookies I ate this morning didn't exist because I closed my eyes) and (3) The reason the Catholic Church hasn’t made a fuss about this book is they know it’s true (which is absurd because the book suggests that anyone who tells the truth about all this will get a bullet to the head so I think Mr Rocha's claims to street cred in the conspiracy community would have been improved if he said he'd been shot at and then gone into hiding).

Honestly I’d have stopped reading this book at about page 60 but it was a pick of my book club and I DNF’d the last one so felt a little obliged to finish it. Plus I have to admit to a perverse pleasure in seeing how bad it would get.

If you want a thriller set in and around the Vatican that doesn’t treat its audience like morons read God's Spy by Juan Gomez-Jurado. Or any other book you can find.

My real rating is half a star. ( )
  bsquaredinoz | Mar 31, 2013 |
After reading this, one can appreciate Dan Brown's qualities as a writer. The plot links the (supposed) assassination of John Paul I to the financial scandals in the Vatican banking system and the shady P2 organization. This might have worked, but the idea that the CIA is largely subverted by secret masonic agents operating out of the Vatican is just ridiculously implausible, as is the quick-witted responsiveness of a couple of journalists caught up in the affair. I guess that is what is going on: the onion-like layers of hidden identity and motive are so opaque that I'm not quite sure, and I couldn't keep tabs on all the various armed men in black suits, sinister cardinals, murdered priests, and elegant elderly men who run everything from behind the scenes. The narrative switches rather confusingly between the 1970s and the present day. The author also suggests that John Paul I was preparing to turn the Roman Catholic Church inside out not only by unmasking financial crooks in high places but by revoking papal infallibility. Wishful thinking, I guess. An entertaining book, if you're stuck in an airport. MB 16-iv-2012 ( )
1 vote MyopicBookworm | Apr 16, 2012 |
This was a fun read. It is a very similar type of story that Dan Brown would write. Intrigue, conspiracy, historical facts and beautiful landscapes. I also like the fact that the woman in the story is one of the heroes. I would defiantly read other books from this author. ( )
  theportal2002 | Sep 3, 2010 |
Summary
Vatican City, 29 September 1978: the world wakes to the shocking news that Pope John Paul I is dead, just a month after his accession. Thirty years later, in London, young journalist Sarah Monteiro receives a mysterious package. Enclosed is a list of names and a coded message. Moments later an assassin attempts to silence her for good.

Pope Paul VI died quietly on 6 August 1978 and there were many who were surprised that the election of a new pope happened as quickly and as uneventfully as it did.

Don Albino Luciani never really wanted to be Pope. He was looking forward to returning to his quiet life in Venice after the conclave of cardinals had made its choice. He knew he wouldn't be a popular choice. He thought far too many of the Church's teachings needed modernising.

May God forgive you for what you have done to me.
- Albino Luciani to the cardinals who elected him pope on 26 August 1978.

His death only 33 days after his accession as Pope John Paul I was equally surprising. Sure, he had niggling ailments, but he was relatively young, and none were life threatening.

THE LAST POPE opens with a black-cassocked figure running for his life through the Secret Archives of the Vatican clutching some papers yellowed with age. Monsignor Firenzi seals the papers into a large envelope which he manages to post in a mailbox just before being shot and bundled into a waiting car.

The papers contain the seeds of the downfall of the Catholic Church, and are the last in a series of packages Firenzi has sent to strategic addresses across the world, to people he hopes will take the next step. They will continue the work that Pope John Paul I never got to complete.

I found THE LAST POPE structurally confusing. The opening passage takes place in "current time" (2008?), while chapter 2 drops back 30 years to the morning Don Albino is discovered dead, 29 September 1978. And then, with few clues apart from a chapter change, we are back in the present. We continue in the present for some time, but with changes of location, and the introduction of new characters whose identities are obscure. Eventually we will go further back in time to events prior to the election of Pope John Paul I.

I think the author recognised that readers might find the novel's structure difficult because towards the end, when the main events appear to be over, there is quite a long chapter of explanation. Here the author appears to be talking directly to the reader, separating fact from fiction. Historically speaking some of the characters have been created just for the story. But then, confusingly, he continues with the narrative, with his fictionalisation of what actually happened the night John Paul I died.

In the final chapter the author reveals his true colours. He has been contacted by the man who killed John Paul I and persuaded to write this book. He believes in a conspiracy theory, that the Roman Catholic Church is controlled by financial cartels that in turn owe their success to the CIA, to the Mafia, to a Masonic Lodge known as P2. He believes the election of Don Albino was contrived but backfired on those who thought they had put in place a Pope who would do their bidding.

I felt the fictional part of THE LAST POPE owed much to Dan Brown's DA VINCI CODE - secret papers, global conspiracy, a code to be cracked. The actions by a number of the characters, including the female "heroine", strained the bounds of credibility.

Others who've reviewed THE LAST POPE have shared my qualms about its structure and storyline. Reviews range from "fascinating thriller" to "fourth rate pulp fiction". I've read it for discussion with a face to face group I belong to and it will be interesting to see if they make it to the end, and what they make of it. For myself, the more I think about it, the more it grows on me. Perhaps I should re-read it... ( )
1 vote smik | Mar 31, 2010 |
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Epigraph
And, as for you, y dear Patriarch, Christ's crown and Christ's days.
- Sister Lucia to Albino Luciani,
Colmbra, Portugal, July 11, 1977
May God forgive you
for what you have done to me.
- Albino Luciani to the cardinals who elected him Pope on August 26, 1978
Dedication
This book is dedicated to John Paul I (Albino Luciani)
Oct 17, 1912 - Sept 29, 1978
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Why does a man run?
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Book description
i>Sept 29, 1978:
The world awakens to the news of the shocking death of Pope John Paul 1, elected only thirty-three days earlier. The Vatican states that His Holiness died of unknown causes, and the body is embalmed within< 24 hours, preventing any possibility of an autopsy ...

2006:
Journalist Sarah Monterio finds an envelope stuffed in her mailbox containing a list of unfamiliar names and a coded message. At first, Sarah is merely puzzled. But when her home is broken into, she realizes that the list has put her in danger.

For the contents of the envelope hold the keys to unveiling corruption beyond anything she has ever known - and to uncovering the truth behind the mysterious death of Pope John Paul I.
Drawn into a vortex in which deadly mercenaries, crooked politicians and princes of the Church itself have formed an alliance of deception, Sarah must decide between revealing the truth and saving her own soul ...
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0515146609, Mass Market Paperback)

Already a New York Times bestseller, The Last Pope is a terrific, fast-paced thriller about the conspiracy surrounding the 1978 death of Pope John Paul I.

1978, Vatican City: On September 29, the world awakens to news of the shocking, sudden death of Pope John Paul I, elected only thirty-three days earlier. The Vatican’s official response: His Holiness died of unknown causes, “possibly associated with a heart attack.” The pope’s body is embalmed within twenty-four hours, preventing any possibility of an autopsy.

2006, London: Journalist Sarah Monteiro returns from vacation to find a mysterious envelope stuffed in her mailbox. Inside is a list of unfamiliar names and a coded message.

At first, Sarah is merely puzzled by the strange delivery. But when a masked intruder breaks into her home, she knows that the list has put her in danger.

Drawn into a vortex of double crosses and terror, Sarah soon learns that the contents of the envelope hold the key to unveiling corruption beyond anything she has investigated— a plot that implicates not only unscrupulous mercenaries and crooked politicians but also princes of the Church, and perhaps even her own father. Indeed, the appearance of the envelope signals a moment of truth that brings to light a number of long-unanswered questions: What really happened during the brief reign of John Paul I? Whose plans were cut short that fatal night in September 1978? And who really benefited from the pope’s sudden demise?

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:43 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

On September 29, the world awakens to news of the shocking, sudden death of Pope John Paul I, elected only thirty-three days earlier. The Vatican's official response: His Holiness died of unknown causes, "possibly associated with a heart attack." The pope's body is embalmed within twenty-four hours, preventing any possibility of an autopsy. 2006, London: Journalist Sarah Monteiro returns from vacation to find a mysterious envelope stuffed in her mailbox. Inside is a list of unfamiliar names and a coded message. At first, Sarah is merely puzzled by the strange delivery, but when a masked intruder breaks into her home, she knows that the list has put her in danger.… (more)

» see all 3 descriptions

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