I read The DaVinci Code and found myself more than a little fascinated by fictional accounts of Vatican, Catholic, and otherwise unknown intrigue. When I stumbled on to The Third Secret by Steve Berry, it didn’t take me long to figure out that I wanted to by the book.
As amazing as Dan Brown’s story is, the one Steve Berry tells is better.
Berry tells the story of Colin Michener, a secretary to Pope Clement XV. Colin’s problem is that he once loved a woman and Clement, before he was pope, absolved him of that sin. When Clement dies, the Vatican Secretary of State Vallendrea makes it known that he expects to be the next in line for the throne of St. Peter.
That may seem like a love story, but it’s not.
Before Clement’s death, he develops a fascination with the so-called third secret of Fatima, in which the Virgin Mary appeared to three children in Portugal in 1917 and passed messages to them. Since the pope is fascinated with them, so is Vallendrea. Clement sends Colin all over Europe to seek out information about the secrets of Fatima and of Medjugorje.
The Vatican and the Catholic Church aren’t peaceful, blameless entities in this story. People are willing to kill to succeed at getting what they want, when they want it. I’m not Catholic so I’m not offended by the idea that something infallible can be so… human.
That’s what makes Berry’s story better than Brown’s… it’s just human. It’s not a story lodged and lost in complicated interpretations of things. The characters are better developed and more likable and it’s easy to see even where Vallendrea comes from.