What do you get when you combine real-world history, fictional assassins, Catholic conspiracy theories, ancient hostilities and complex characters? Author Declan Finn’s gripping new novel A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller. The author notes on his Facebook Page:
With this novel, I hope to dispel myths of Catholic History, philosophy, and thought. Yes, the Church of Rome thinks. I’m going to have a lot of shooting, and slip in history, philosophy, Catholic apologetics, and even romance, just to round things out.
And he doesn’t disappoint, particularly for those of us who’ve been disturbed by the spate of anti-Catholic bigotry in the aftermath of Pope Benedict’s resignation. But even those without “skin in the game” will be endlessly entertained by Finn’s intriguing narrative, eloquently woven together in a descriptive yet succinct writing style that places the reader at the scene of the action, acted out by a cast of colorful characters whose motives remain suspect until the very end.
As Finn notes:
A Pius Man is a mystery with too many suspects.
In Rome, a terrorist is blown out the window of a hotel and crash-lands on a car at the gates of the Vatican. A figure in a priest’s robes is seen running from the scene. But the body on the windshield is just the beginning for a team of six unlikely investigators from around the world. Each pair of hands on this case has a past, and a few secrets … and an axe to grind. They don’t want to work together. They don’t want this case.
And one of them just might be the killer.
As I read my review copy, I couldn’t help but notice that the author expertly achieved his goals. A Pius Man kept me scrolling along, eagerly trying to solve the whodunit and anticipating the next violent incident that would propel the story forward. Along the way, I also learned a history lesson concerning the Catholic Church and the Nazi regime, which shed light on the origins of the accusations leveled against Pope Pius XII. As Finn’s Pope observes in a scene from the novel:
There are a lot of people who do not like the Catholics, my young friend. If there is absolute proof that Pius XII helped the Nazis, it would do amazing harm to the Church. However, if it is the opposite, then the Church would get to discredit many of its most vocal enemies.”
Such are the motives upon which the mystery hinges.
Later, the Pope further opines:
But, if you wish to get back to a list of people who hate Catholics, start with anyone who ever raised a gun in Northern Ireland. The German government would like nothing better than to shove the entire Holocaust onto our shoulders, like a former Hitler Youth did with a play called The Deputy. The French have made similar noises against us…then again, they’ve hated us since, oh, about 1791.” Pius merely looked at them casually, leaning back in the chair, which creaked under his weight. “Then there are the others.”
I’m embarrassed to admit, I’d never heard of The Deputy prior to reading Finn’s novel but his ability to intertwine real events into a fictional tale makes his effort not only entertaining but informative. The author also provides copious notes at the end of the book, rife with citations and examples of writers and historians on both sides of the Catholic-Nazi argument.
As for his characters, they are a well-developed list of suspects who keep the reader guessing along the way:
Sean Ryan, an American stuntman turned mercenary and self-described “cleanser of the gene pool.” He’s supposed to be in Rome to train priests in combat, and old habits die hard.
Then there’s Giovanni Figlia, a homicide cop for the Pope who fears only paperwork. He was best known for starting soccer games with bishops in the Borgia gardens … until the corpse landed on the hood of his Jetta.
A former U.S. Army chaplain who was meeting with the murdered man on a weekly basis. Did the Jesuit priest who’s killed men with his bare hands know that his weekly luncheon date had just murdered a researcher in the Vatican Archives?
Scott “Mossad” Murphy of Israeli intelligence’s “Goyim Brigade”: He’s in the middle of investigating another murder at the Vatican … this one a high-ranking Muslim leader with connections to al Qaeda.
Into this mix comes Maureen McGrail, an Irish Interpol agent with a bitter past with Sean Ryan. She’s working her own murder case, related to the controversial canonization of Pope Pius XII, sometimes known as “Hitler’s Pope.” And guess who Interpol wants to send to Rome … ?
And the final, most distressing suspect is Joshua Kutjok….aka Pope Pius XIII, a right-wing African pope with rumors of blood in his past and the stated goal of turning “Hitler’s Pope” into the “Hero of the Holocaust.” To accomplish this goal, he’s already let terrorists into the Vatican Archives … would he kill a man who stood in his way?
In A Pius Man, six unlikely heroes must work together to unravel a web of intrigue and murder that entwines one of the most controversial figures of the twentieth century. Was Pius XII a Nazi collaborator who deliberately let millions of Jews die? Has the Vatican covered up the truth for more than 60 years? Or has someone perpetrated a decades-long smear campaign? And what will happen to six strangers trying to finally bring the truth to light?
Aside from Catholic conspiracy theories, the book explores the real-world phenomenon of Sharia Law and worldwide jihad, creeping secularism and the blight of the Catholic Church’s pedophilia scandal as its characters race to solve a mystery and bring an assassin to justice. If you’re looking for a compelling read that combines historical fact with creative fiction, you’ll love A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller, due out in the latter part of March.
UPDATE: As per the author’s comment below, A Pius Man: A Holy Thriller is now available! The author will join the Writestream Twitter Chat on Thursday, April 4 at 11 a.m. Eastern to discuss his book, his writing career and his thoughts on publishing in the new media age. We’re also working on a date and time for a Writestream Radio interview, so stay tuned!