I’ll read anything by Robert Harris. There’s a reason he’s one of the most popular modern storytellers around- his Cicero trilogy was a triumph.
So reading Conclave was a no brainer. Amongst the melee of the modern world, the cardinals of The Catholic Church go into Conclave to elect a new Pope. Within this sequestered community, we explore the candidates with all their flaws and foibles. An intriguing subject, strong characters and potential dramatic resolution.
Intrigue and plotting abound as we get sucked into an intricate and ancient ritual, cleverly overlaid with the concerns of a modern church. The wannabe-Popes discuss declining congregations, female clergy and reform. However, all the action takes place away from the talking which is perhaps why the tension suffers a bit and the ending is a little anticlimactic.
I absolutely enjoyed it, but it lacked some of the dramatic punch of Harris’s thrillers and the political intrigue of his other novels. Maybe (and I’m slightly ashamed to admit it) it’s because I couldn’t help thinking of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons which has a not dissimilar concept. It’s not that I preferred Dan Brown, more that the rituals and mystery were less alien and arcane.
Still a very good read- its compelling prose propels you along and I happily devoured it in a single sitting. If only I hadn’t seen the name Robert Harris on the cover.
Read: After Fatherland, Enigma Archangel, and his Cicero Trilogy