- Associated Press - Friday, April 1, 2011

“The Pope’s Assassin” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons), by Luis M. Rocha: Ever since Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” was published, fascination in plots within the Vatican has grown. Set nefarious action in the dark, incense-scented halls and throw in a well-kept secret, and it seems to be the recipe for a best-selling book.

Luis M. Rocha gets things going in “The Pope’s Assassin” with a set of ancient scrolls found in Turkey dating back to A.D. 325. The scrolls tell a far different story of Jesus’ life than that found in the New Testament.

The Catholic church has kept that information secret for decades, although every pope, the night after his election, is given a copy of the document to read.

Despite the need for secrecy _ and the dedication of the few who know about the scrolls to insure it _ word somehow leaks out and the killing begins.

Rafael Santini, a former CIA agent who has become a priest-assassin, sets out to investigate and preserve the secrecy.

It’s not long before people are being abducted, tortured and murdered, including several times by well-armed Jesuits and a mysterious religious fanatic who stabs a priest to death in the Vatican’s relic room with the sharp bone of a saint.

And if things weren’t deadly enough, the ancient Vatican crime boss known as _ get ready _ “JC,” who is as wise as he is deadly, gets into the act, rescuing some, abducting another, ordering the deaths of others.

JC even informs one character that he knows about his girlfriend’s morning sickness, even though it has only just started. “The old man knows everything,” the awed young man notes.

Rocha keeps the action moving, and even throws in some romance between the steely Father Rafael and British journalist Sarah Monteiro, who cannot seem to get the deadly priest off her mind.

For those with a taste for dark plots and action-hero plotting, with a strong dollop of religious mystery thrown in, “The Pope’s Assassin” will provide a delectable dish. Many others will find the characters cartoonish, the plot silly and much of the action ridiculous.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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