“Conclave” by Robert Harris, (Knopf, 2016)

Continuing my light reading spree, I enjoyed the world of Conclave.  It’s about the election of the Pope, following the sudden death of a Pope with the liberal leanings of current Pope Francis.  The protagonist is Cardinal Lomedi, Dean of the College of Cardinals—a man who the former Pope declared his “manager”, but Lomedi doubts his personal spirituality.  There are 118 cardinals, various lesser administrators, the Sisters of Holy Something or Other, who handle the cooking and housekeeping at the hostel built to house the cardinals.  It’s a vast cast of characters and Harris does a good job of not confusing the reader with too much background on such rich personalities.

The main plot is the election, with various sub-plots on why prime suspects for election have clay feet.  The winner is not a total surprise, but Harris does pack a good punch into the end.  As a Catholic, I enjoyed revisiting the rituals of the Vatican and all the inter-Nicene conflicts between European, new world and third world cardinals.   Best of all, a great map of Vatican surrounding St. Peter’s begins the story.