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Conclave
Cover of Conclave
Conclave
A novel
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The best-selling author of Enigma and Fatherland turns to today's Vatican in a ripped-from-the-headlines novel, and gives us his most ambitious, page-turning thriller yet—where the power of God is nearly equaled by the ambition of men.
The pope is dead. Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world's most secretive election. They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals. Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on Earth.
From the Hardcover edition.
The best-selling author of Enigma and Fatherland turns to today's Vatican in a ripped-from-the-headlines novel, and gives us his most ambitious, page-turning thriller yet—where the power of God is nearly equaled by the ambition of men.
The pope is dead. Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world's most secretive election. They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals. Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on Earth.
From the Hardcover edition.
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  • From the book Copyright © 2016 Robert Harris

    At 6:30 a.m., the alarm sounded throughout the Casa Santa Marta—a clanging seminary bell. Lomeli opened his eyes. He was curled up on his side. He felt groggy, raw. He had no idea how long he had been asleep, only that it couldn't have been for more than an hour or two. The sudden remembrance of all he had to do in the coming day passed over him like a wave of nausea, and for a while he lay unable to move. Normally his waking routine was to meditate for fifteen minutes then rise and say his morning prayers. But on this occasion, when at last he managed to summon the will to put his feet to the floor, he went directly into the bathroom and ran a shower as hot as he could bear. The water scourged his back and shoulders. He twisted and turned beneath it and cried out in pain. Afterwards he rubbed away the moisture on the mirror and surveyed with disgust his raw and scalded skin. My body is clay, my good fame a vapour, my end is ashes.

    He felt too tense to breakfast with the others. He stayed in his room, rehearsing his homily and attempting to pray, and left it until the very last minute to go downstairs.

    The lobby was a red sea of cardinals robing for the short procession to St. Peter's. The officials of the Conclave, led by Archbishop Mandorff and Monsignor O'Malley, had been allowed back into the hostel to assist; Father Zanetti was waiting at the foot of the stairs to help Lomeli dress. They went into the same waiting room opposite the chapel in which he had met Woźniak the night before. When Zanetti asked him how he had slept, he replied, "Very soundly, thank you," and hoped the young priest would not notice the dark circles beneath his eyes and the way his hands shook when he handed him his sermon for safe keeping. He ducked his head into the opening of the thick red chasuble that had been worn by successive Deans of the College over the past twenty years and held out his arms as Zanetti fussed around him like a tailor, straightening and adjusting it. The mantle felt heavy on his shoulders. He prayed silently: Lord, who hast said, My yoke is easy and My burden is light, grant that I may so bear it as to attain Thy grace. Amen. Zanetti stood in front of him and reached up to place upon

    Zanetti stood in front of him and reached up to place upon his head the tall mitre of white watered silk. The priest stepped back a pace to check it was correctly aligned, squinted, came forward again and altered it by a millimetre, then walked behind Lomeli and tugged down the ribbons at the back and smoothed them. It felt alarmingly precarious. Finally he gave him the crozier. Lomeli lifted the golden shepherd's crook a couple of times in his left hand, testing the weight. You are not a shepherd, a familiar voice whispered in his head. You are a manager. He had a sudden urge to give it back, to tear off the vestments, to confess himself a fraud and disappear. He smiled and nodded. "It feels good," he said. "Thank you."

    Just before 10 a.m., the cardinals began moving off from the Casa Santa Marta, walking out of the plate-glass doors in pairs, in order of seniority, checked off by O'Malley on his clipboard. Lomeli, resting on the crozier, waited with Zanetti and Mandorff beside the reception desk. They had been joined by Mandorff's deputy, the Dean of the Master of Papal Ceremonies, a cheerful, tubby Italian monsignor named Epifano, who would be his chief assistant during the Mass. Lomeli spoke to no one, looked at no one. He was still trying vainly to clear a space in his mind for God. Eternal Trinity, I intend by Your grace to celebrate Mass to Your glory, and...

About the Author-
  • ROBERT HARRIS is the author of ten best-selling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, An Officer and a Spy, and Dictator. Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his wife, Gill Hornby.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 5, 2016
    Thriller Award–winner Harris (Dictator) successfully dramatizes the selection of a new pope. In the near future, the pontiff dies suddenly of a heart attack, and the Vatican leadership works fast to ensure an orderly transition. The process is conveyed from the perspective of Cardinal Jacopo Lomeli, the dean of the College of Cardinals, a rational and sympathetic figure who a month earlier sought permission to retire to a religious order. As the cardinals gather from around the world to vote, factions quickly develop around the leading contenders, including Joshua Adeyemi of Nigeria, who’s seeking to become the first black pope, and Lomeli’s successor as the Vatican’s secretary of state, Aldo Bellini. Bellini gives Lomeli a glimpse at the hidden turmoil at the Vatican when he reveals that on the day of the Holy Father’s death, the dying pope confided to Bellini that he had lost faith in the church. As the maneuvering for command continues, Lomeli must try to steer a path toward consensus. This is another impressive outing from an extremely versatile author. Agent: Michael Carlisle, Inkwell Management.

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from September 15, 2016
    Harris, creator of grand, symphonic thrillers from Fatherland (1992) to An Officer and a Spy (2014), scores with a chamber piece of a novel set in the Vatican in the days after a fictional pope dies.Fictional, yes, but the nameless pontiff has a lot in common with our own Francis: he's famously humble, shunning the lavish Apostolic Palace for a small apartment, and he is committed to leading a church that engages with the world and its problems. In the aftermath of his sudden death, rumors circulate about the pope's intention to fire certain cardinals. At the center of the action is Cardinal Lomeli, Dean of the College of Cardinals, whose job it is to manage the conclave that will elect a new pope. He believes it is also his duty to uncover what the pope knew before he died because some of the cardinals in question are in the running to succeed him. "In the running" is an apt phrase because, as described by Harris, the papal conclave is the ultimate political backroom--albeit a room, the Sistine Chapel, covered with Michelangelo frescoes. Vying for the papal crown are an African cardinal whom many want to see as the first black pope, a press-savvy Canadian, an Italian arch-conservative (think Cardinal Scalia), and an Italian liberal who wants to continue the late pope's campaign to modernize the church. The novel glories in the ancient rituals that constitute the election process while still grounding that process in the real world: the Sistine Chapel is fitted with jamming devices to thwart electronic eavesdropping, and the pressure to act quickly is increased because "rumours that the pope is dead are already trending on social media." An illuminating read for anyone interested in the inner workings of the Catholic Church; for prelate-fiction superfans, it is pure temptation.

    COPYRIGHT(2016) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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