by Robert Harris

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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781101972908
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/25/2017
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 100,874
Product dimensions: 4.00(w) x 6.80(h) x 1.20(d)

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.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read an Excerpt

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 for the benefit of all, both living and dead, for whom Christ died, and to apply the ministerial fruit for the choosing of a new Pope . . .

At last they stepped out into the blank November morning. The double file of scarlet-robed cardinals stretched ahead of him across the cobbles towards the Arch of the Bells, where they disappeared into the basilica. Again the helicopter hovered somewhere nearby; again the faint sounds of demonstrators carried on the cold air. Lomeli tried to shut out all distractions, but it was impossible. Every twenty paces stood security men who bowed their heads as he passed and blessed them. He walked with his supporters beneath the arch, across the piazza dedicated to the early martyrs, along the portico of the basilica, through the massive bronze door and into the brilliant illumination of St. Peter’s, lit for the television cameras, where a congregation of twenty thousand was waiting. He could hear the chanting of the choir beneath the dome and the vast echoing rustle of the multitude. The procession halted. He kept his eyes fixed straight ahead, willing stillness, conscious of the immense throng standing close-packed all around him—nuns and priests and lay clergy, staring at him, whispering, smiling.

Eternal Trinity, I intend by Your grace to celebrate Mass to Your glory . . .

After a couple of minutes, they moved on again, up the wide central aisle of the nave. He glanced from side to side, leaning on the crozier with his left hand, motioning vaguely with his right, conferring his blessing upon the blur of faces. He glimpsed himself on a giant TV screen—an erect, elaborately costumed, expressionless figure, walking as if in a trance. Who was this puppet, this hollow man? He felt entirely disembodied, as though he were floating alongside himself.

At the end of the aisle, where the nave gave on to the cupola of the dome, they had to pause beside Bernini’s statue of St. Longinus, close to where the choir was singing, and wait while the last few pairs of cardinals filed up the steps to kiss the central altar and descended again. Only when this elaborate manoeuvre had been completed was Lomeli himself cleared to walk around to the rear of the altar. He bowed towards it. Epifano stepped forward and took away the crozier and gave it to an altar boy. Then he lifted the mitre from Lomeli’s head, folded it, and handed it to a second acolyte. Out of habit, Lomeli touched his skullcap to check it was in place.

Together he and Epifano climbed the seven wide carpeted steps to the altar. Lomeli bowed again and kissed the white cloth. He straightened and rolled back the sleeves of his chasuble as if he were about to wash his hands. He took the silver thurible of burning coals and incense from its bearer and swung it by its chain over the altar—seven times on this side, and then, walking round, a separate censing on each of the other three. The sweet-smelling smoke evoked feelings beyond memory. Out of the corner of his eye he saw dark-suited figures moving his throne into position. He gave back the thurible, bowed again and allowed himself to be conducted round to the front of the altar. An altar boy held up the missal, opened to the correct page; another extended a microphone on a pole.

Once, in his youth, Lomeli had enjoyed a modest fame for the richness of his baritone. But it had become thin with age, like a fine wine left too long. He clasped his hands, closed his eyes for a moment, took a breath, and intoned in a wavering plainsong, amplified around the basilica:

“In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti . . .”
And from the colossal congregation arose the murmured sung response:
He raised his hands in benediction and chanted again, extending the three syllables into half a dozen:
“Pa-a-x vob-i-is.”
And they responded:
“Et cum spiritu tuo.”
He had begun.

Excerpted from Conclave by Robert Harris. Copyright © 2016 by Robert Harris. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Conclave: A novel 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrific endlng
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The small details are what last the longest, similar to Fatherland. Cannot be guessed with a finish as unexpected as The Sixth Sense. Highly Recommend
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great! Fascinating story of the election of a pope. A twist at the end, but liked how everthing turned out.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ending was a bit of a stretch but I had to resist the temptation to peek at the last chapter throughout. Enjoyable read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First, the level of research to set the background and atmosphere of the story was more than impressive. Second, the final outcome of the story was well worth the read. But also the stories within the larger story was genius and kept you glued to the book. However, the final resolution of the story did not carry the same quality of the writing up to that point. Nonetheless, more than worth your time to read. Will watch for other works by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is the best book I've read in a long time. The setting is Rome as the cardinals are locked in a conclave ("with keys") as they are in the process of electing a new pope. Historically accurate, the characters are fictitious but very believable. Every one has both human frailties and strengths. As the election draws to a close and the likely finalists are eliminated one by one, I tried to guess who would be the new Holy Father and why. I was wrong! I couldn't put this book down. You don't have to be Catholic to enjoy this story. The human appeal is universal.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I must say this book is the best one I have read within the past year. As many reviews have noted the end is a whopper! Wow!! The characters are well developed and the story line is magnificent.
Thebooktrail-com More than 1 year ago
Really interesting this one. If you've ever been interested in knowing what literally goes on behind closed doors, then this is the book for you. The closed doors of the Sistine Chapel when the world is locked out and the new pope elected. There really are some fascinating insights into the process and buildings of the Vatican. I've been inside the Sistine Chapel but obviously not been in a real conclave but it read as very authentic and goes into the nooks and crannies of the buildings, the sleeping quarters and the conclave itself which however true, read as if you were there witnessing it all first hand. The backdrop to the Vatican and the process of choosing the new Pope, the rules, procedures, traditions all weave in and out of a intriguing mystery and it felt very claustrophobic, secretive and very eerie at the same time. The whispers in the walls,the smoke rising up the chimney and the never ending twisting corridors.....I was enthralled. A great mystery in such a significant setting - I felt as if I was where I shouldn't really be - and what a thrill that was!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The ending was not expected and actually kind of pissed me off a little . Mostly because I'm getting tired of certain things getting constantly rammed down my throat in entertainment and this one pulled off a major "gocha" right at the end. Otherwise , enjoyed the read.
EmmabBooks More than 1 year ago
Exciting and Informative The pope has died and the cardinals are gathered to choose the next one. In the 15 minutes before the door shuts them away from the outside world 2 dramatic events take place. A fascinating thriller incorporating what happens during the voting system for a new pope, with some dramatic action, twists and difficult decisions to be made by Cardinal Lomeli who must run the voting process. The voting process itself was fascinating reading (I knew nothing about it before), including the politicking of the likely candidates. Set in the current time, in Rome, the book starts quite slowly, though interestingly, with the gathering of the cardinals and the commencement of the voting process. After quite a large section of the book has passed, suddenly shocks and twists start occurring, and then I was glued to the book until the end. Half way through this book I was rating it a 3 or 4 (I found it a bit slow, but very interesting), however by the end my view is that it definitely merits a 5* rating. Overall It was exciting, informative and has given me lots to think and talk about.
Sensitivemuse More than 1 year ago
I love these kinds of novels. I’m always up for a plot filled with intrigue, who’s going to backstab who, who’s got the dirty secrets and who’s the horrible but cunning bastage that will expose these secrets and so on…. I had to whip out my dictionary for these latin/Catholic terms that are prevalent throughout this novel. (My knowledge in Catholicism is very rusty.) But you learn something new all the time right? Now I know there’s actually names for each piece of their clothing these men wear. I love how it in the first third of the novel the plotting to be the next pope starts. It’s a reminder that even though these people are spiritual figureheads and we look to them as authority figures, they’re still humans with ambition. But this is the part I loved reading the most. I love the intrigue, I love the plotting. I love how Lomeli is in the middle of this and is trying to make sure everything in the voting process is legitimate. You have a group of characters to keep track of, but there isn’t much to them. They’re broken into cliques to keep track of them easily but the book is centralized on Lomeli and he’s the only one that develops throughout the novel. He’s likable for the most part and does deal with his inner self for the most part. He has his faults as well which makes sense (who doesn’t want to be pope?!) which makes these characters realistic. The plot itself starts off really well. I liked the pace and events during the story. What bothered me was the last third of the novel where everything went chaotic and the author seemed to inject some action to make it more lively. I didn’t think it was necessary and there wasn’t any need for that. What I would prefer is more intrigue and inner plotting amongst the Cardinals. (There was but there was no need to the action sequence which wasn’t even a feature it happened “off screen”.) Another thing which didn’t sit too well was it was one thing after another with the surprises. First it was this guy. Then the other. Oh, can’t forget this guy either. We already elected the pope? No wait here’s another monkey wrench. It was just too much (by the end I was screaming out: “Just give him the papacy and let’s go home. This is getting ridiculous”.) Some parts were spaced out but it just felt too much. However, good on the author to make sure all the loose ends were tied together. Nothing was left unanswered. I liked this book but it would have been better without all the extra bits and pieces here. More intrigue and plotting within. It’s what makes it so much better. Otherwise, it was a short quick read and worth it. Just remember this is an alternate history of events.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Well written. Enjoyed it until the ending.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This is my first Richard Harris book. Very interesting read. Unexpected ending. I highly recommend this book. Enjoyed it tremendously.