I have just finished reading the six hundred pages of J.R. dos Santos’ sixth novel in the Tomas Noronha saga (the first was “The God Formula”, title of my post of September 2, 2015) with its three million copies translated into eighteen languages. I read every word of the thick volume – though I was tempted to skip some perfectly predictable pages – and completed the reading in just a couple of days. I was curious to see how well the novel lived up to the intriguing back-cover blurb about the cryptanalyst’s challenge to unravel yet another enigma, involving this time the present Pope, destined to be the last (!) according to the 12th century prophecies of St Malachy, Pope Pius X’s vision in 1909 and the famous three “secrets” of Mary to the children of Fatima in 1917.
This Blog has no vocation to offer book-reviews as such. But as this book’s author (probably) and his hero (certainly) are both unbelievers who happen to be erudite in matters religious, I thought that my own readers (both of you …), already familiar with the book or tempted to tackle it, may be interested in my reaction to it.
Dos Santos is on a roll. The Portuguese Dan Brown has hit pay-dirt in exploiting his popularity as a TV journalist, and his profound knowledge of Church history as a university professor. He writes well enough, spins a good yarn, although literary critics rightly ridicule his proclivity to fill endless chapters with his lecture notes.
Central to the story is the kidnapping of Pope Francis, under threat of decapitation by disciples of Daech tonight, at midnight – in just a few hours ! Our loquacious author, nonetheless, has his hero spell out, in more detail than most of his readers would want or need, all that is to be known about the scandal of the Vatican bank and our famous Archbishop Marchinkus (the same prelate who accelerated the granting of my own dispensation from the priesthood by Pope Paul VI) – as though the threatened, imminent papal assassination could be put on the back-burner while our hero educated his girl-friend. (If you want the full, true story of Marchinkus’ shenanigans, start at page 275. You’ll know as much as I do by page 495. Nothing much happens in those 200-some pages, except the ticking of a clock.)
The other interesting info-lecture concerns the prophecies of Malachy, Pius X and the kids at Fatima. The first fills pages 81-101. The Fatima secrets are detailed in pages 102-113. And you’ll get the drum on Pius X in pages 115-117. (All page-references are to the French edition.) In his “Note Finale” (pp. 627-633), the author insists on the authenticity of the facts he reveals about the “IOR”, the Vatican bank (headed by Archbishop Marchinkus – mistakenly called a Cardinal in one slip of the Portuguese pen) and the details he provides about the three sets of prophecies. The author nonchalantly reassures us in his final paragraph that he personally is completely skeptical about the prophecies. But in the preceding paragraph he writes : “We must underline, on the subject of prophecies, that experiments in Quantum Physics have proven, experimentally, that it is possible to have access to information coming from the future” (!!!). Until I read that, I thought dos Santos was a highly intelligent, well-read writer of limited literary talent, whose books are however informative as well as deservedly popular. I now wonder, not about his credibility but his credulity. Enjoy the read anyhow. Don’t worry; be happy. The Pope survives, in spite of the nasty, original fiction of collusion between Radical Islam and … Cosa Nostra !