Reviewed: “The Third Secret” by Steve Berry

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.

Reviewed: “Angels & Demons” by Dan Brown

From the land of “better late than never,” I have finally read Dan Brown’s Angels & Demons, the prequel to The DaVinci Code. I’ve been trying to remember why I put off reading it so long and this is what I’ve come up with:

I have an aversion to prequels.

My view is probably muddied by prequel movies but, on the whole, they haven’t ever been as good as what they’re supposed to come before. My view has now changed.

Angels & Demons is far, far better than it’s follow-up, and I loved The DaVinci Code.

Simply put there’s more … story to the prequel.

The plot is much the same – a race against time to find out the secrets that time has buried before someone, or more, people die – but is deeper. The characters are more complex, their individual stories are better developed, and the details are fuller.

Maybe, in the end, this is a product of this particular prequel having been written after the original.

Either way, it met virtually all of the criteria I look for in a book:

First, it captured my attention in the first fifty pages; really in the first five, to be honest.

Second, it made me not want to read another book at the same time, much less put this book down.

Third, it’s based in history. And the historical facts mentioned in the book, like Bernini’s sculpture The Ecstasy of St. Teresa, proved to be when I looked them up.

Fourth, in conjunction with number three, it made me want to look things up and learn more. I’ve got a weakness for conspiracy theories and I’ve heard about the Illuminati in various places but nothing ever stoked my interest in them enough that I set out to learn more specifically about the group and it’s members.

And fifth, I already want to read it again.

I tried to predict what would happen, I really did, and I couldn’t. The ending of the story caught me completely off guard even though I thought I knew the characters and their motivations but I wasn’t quite there. I love books like that.

Will I read it again? Yes.

After I read The DaVinci Code again, of course.