Conclave

A Novel

Publisher: Seal Books
The Pope is dead.

Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and twenty 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.

READ AN EXCERPT

1

Sede vacante

 
Cardinal Lomeli left his apartment in the Palace of the Holy Office shortly before two in the morning and hurried through the darkened cloisters of the Vatican towards the bedroom of the Pope.

He was praying. O Lord, he still has so much to do, whereas all...
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PRAISE FOR

Shortlisted for the 2017 British Book Awards: Crime and Thriller Book of the Year

A GLOBE AND MAIL BEST BOOK


Conclave is one of the best crime novels of 2016. In fact, it may be one of the best novels of 2016. There are thrills, devious plots, brilliant characters, a perfect setting and Harris’s usual skillfully rendered historical research. If you liked the Cicero trilogy, or were transfixed by The Ghost or An Officer and a Spy, you do not want to miss one line of this novel. . . . I read this book in one long day, taking time only to eat a sandwich. It is the best Robert Harris novel to date.” —Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail

A must for any lover of political fiction, Conclave offers a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of the Catholic Church’s most critical election.” —Canadian Living

[A] triumphant Vatican showdown. . . . [T]here is only one possible word to describe Robert Harris’s new novel, and it is this: unputdownable. . . . Conclave doggedly sets out to provide readers with the fundamental satisfactions of story: of sequence, configuration and organisation.” —Ian Sansom, The Guardian 

 “[S]plendid. . . . Harris does not disappoint. . . . Regardless of whether you have faith in God, the Church, or neither, Conclave will keep you richly entertained.” —The Washington Post

“[O]ne of [Harris’s] most intelligent and socially relevant novels to date.” —Book Reporter

“It is a fascinating study in the difficulties that even religious leaders find in trying to the determine the right rather than the obvious thing to do.” —Daily Mail

“Another page-turner from Harris, this one rich in Catholic history and ritual.” —The Age (Australia)

Throughout the novel, Harris teases us with taut, punchy, thrillerish sentences that set a scene, convey a mood, outline a position and hint at menace. . . . But just as the narrative refuses to take the form of a crime novel, it also defies thriller conventions. Instead what we have is a sharply focused, tightly controlled drama, if not big on adventure then certainly rich in intrigue. . . . Harris’s drama is made all the more intense by the confined space and claustrophobic limits of his locations. . . . [T]he novel eventually flares into life, triggering a series of unexpected sparks. . . . Lomeli proves to be an engaging creation. . . . Conclave boasts a sting in the tale as fiendish as the final twist in Harris’s 2007 thriller The Ghost. The rest of this fine novel is more subtle but just as masterfully executed.” —The Australian

[A] deft tale of Vatican intrigue. . . . A conclave of cardinals charged with choosing a new pope after the incumbent dies seems to fit [the classic English mystery novel] tradition nicely. . . . Conclave is full of craftsmanship. From the moment Cardinal Lomeli, the protagonist, leaves his Vatican apartment and crosses the Vatican to the dead pope’s bedroom, the reader feels in safe hands. This is Harris’s tenth novel . . . and he has mastered the hidden clockwork of suspense. He gives an initial nod to detective tradition in Lomeli’s discovery of holes in the timetable leading up to the pope’s death. . . . Like one of Graham Greene’s ‘entertainments,’ Conclave treats a serious topic with a deft touch.” —John Gapper, Financial Times

“[Conclave is] a very fine novel, a worthy addition to the portfolio and pretty much a must-read for fans. . . . Harris details the archaic procedures of a conclave, replete with lovely little details. . . . Conclave has all the elements of great drama: power-plays, politicking, tension, errors, risk. So far, so West Wing or House of Cards. What raises the story above that is the setting. Even us irredeemable atheists can appreciate the sheer pomp and ceremony at the heart of a Papal election . . . the operatic grandeur of it all. . . . [T]horoughly enjoyable.” —Irish Independent

“Harris, creator of grand, symphonic thrillers . . . scores with a chamber piece of a novel. . . . The novel glories in the ancient rituals that constitute the election process while still grounding that process in the real world. . . . An illuminating read for anyone interested in the inner workings of the Catholic Church; for prelate-fiction super-fans, it is pure temptation.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Conclave . . . is a gripping read. There are plenty of plot twists, revelations and high politicking to hook readers in. . . . Harris has done his research and the detail is fascinating, especially the ritual of the vote. . . . In the wrong hands the fruit of research or the respect for historical accuracy can slow down a story. . . . Conclave is admirably brisk—and its final twist is great fun.” —The Times

“Despite papal fiction being such a crowded church, Harris, in Conclave, contrives a twist . . . that seems to me completely new, showing that the genre still has possibilities.” —The Guardian

“Fast-written and suspenseful, it’s elegantly written entertainment from a first-rate storyteller.” —Mail on Sunday
 
“Another high-class Harris thriller.” —Reader’s Digest

 “[B]rilliant. . . . Conclave . . . is a gripping read in the authentic Harris mould. . . . Conclave . . . is more than a crime novel, it is also a psychological and political thriller. . . . Another possible influence is Graham Greene, doyen of the Catholic adventure story. While not sharing Greene’s pessimism, Harris replicates his ability to get inside religious minds. . . . Harris has converted an arcane process into a page-turner. . . . The more one looks, the more cunning the book seems. Conclave is a triumphant addition to Harris’s acclaimed output.” —The Sunday Times

“[T]he novel begins to grip like a vice and manages to convey all the drama of an election without resorting to melodrama. He pulls off the difficult trick of making his cardinals seem no less holy for all their human foibles and, although this ruminative and low-key novel is very different from Harris’s other books, it is well up to their standard.” —Sunday Express (four stars)

If thriller writers were furniture makers, Harris would be the Thomas Chippendale of today. This skilful novel about the election of a new Pope is as stylish and beautifully constructed as one of the master craftsman’s chairs. It is a sumptuous story. . . . Harris weaves the narrative of the rivalries among these Holy Men as intricately as in any locked-room crime mystery, without once losing his grip on the marvellous characters he has created. The author . . . casts a serpentine spell. . . . The fate of each ambitious cardinal delicately ebbs and flows during the story, each having their feet of clay subtly exposed until a final decision is reached—but even then there is a satisfying sting in the tail. One of his finest.” —Daily Mail

“[A] rather brilliant ecclesiastical thriller. . . . [A] taut narrative . . . you can relish whether you’re a Vatican buff or someone completely unfamiliar with the church. We’re talking power and glory, dirty tricks and low ambition—it’s made for a thriller. . . . [T]he whole scenario has the contained space and tight time frame to make for mounting tension.” —London Evening Standard

Robert Harris’s new novel is a slick and fast-paced thriller. . . . The narrative begins at a breakneck speed and we have a ringside seat at the secretive meeting of the conclave. . . . One of the more entertaining aspects of Harris’s book is his blending of fiction with Vatican history which offers plenty of potential for arch comment. . . . [T]his entertaining and satisfying page-turner tells the tense story of the Machiavellian machinations of ambitious men, locked in a power-struggle that can only end in a puff of white smoke and power.” —Daily Express (four stars)