Book Review: The Franciscan, a new Vatican Thriller from W R. Park

The Bottom Line: Equal parts Vatican thriller and spy fable, The Franciscan is a fast-moving feast of betrayal, corruption and murder told by a master craftsman.

It’s only fitting that W R.Park begins The Franciscan with a quote from Nostradamus, since Park himself appears to be something of a prophet. The book – which was written 13 years ago – is the story of a fictional Pope Francis set on ushering in a new era of reforms in the Catholic church.

Following his election in the secrecy of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, the newly elected Pope announces to the crowed gathered in St Peter’s Square that he has received a message from God, and will reveal its contents after one month of private contemplation. He then informs his staff that he will be in his private chapel, and is not to be disturbed for the next 30 days.

The stunning proclamation sends Cardinal Buldini, a bully who secretly rigged Francis’ election, into a rage. It seems that Buldini has controlled the Vatican from behind the scenes for decades, profiting mightily in the process. Having pegged Pope Francis as just another aging figurehead who could be easily manipulated, he’s forced to summon a group of loyalists to find out what’s going on.

As for the daring Pope Francis, the following days and weeks will be anything but solitary. The new Pope, who dismisses all formalities and insists on being called by his first name in private, gathers his own crew of believers from the far corners of the earth to assist him in a quest for truth that begins in the Vatican Archives.

What follows is a cloak-and-dagger battle for the heart and soul of the church. But this is more than just another Vatican Thriller. Unlike other work in the genre, the story’s primary mover isn’t an outsider with impeccable academic credentials, ala Dan Brown’s Robert Langdon. Park’s vision of a gutsy Pope who takes matters into his own hands is far more engrossing.

Bella Wright

Bella Wright blogs about books, film and media.

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