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A Novel

Written by Steve BerryAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Steve Berry



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On Sale: May 17, 2005
Pages: | ISBN: 978-0-345-48434-5
Published by : Ballantine Books Ballantine Group

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On Sale: May 31, 2005
ISBN: 978-1-4159-2555-3
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On Sale: May 17, 2005
ISBN: 978-0-7393-2009-9
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Steve Berry’s The Columbus Affair.

Explosive in both its pace and its revelations, The Third Secret is a remarkable international thriller. Bestselling author Steve Berry tackles some of the most controversial ideas of our time in a breakneck journey through the history of the Church and the future of religion.

Fatima, Portugal, 1917: The Virgin Mary appears to three peasant children, sharing with them three secrets, two of which are soon revealed to the world. The third secret is sealed away in the Vatican, read only by popes, and not disclosed until the year 2000. When revealed, its quizzical tone and anticlimactic nature leave many faithful wondering if the Church has truly unveiled all of the Virgin Mary’s words–or if a message far more important has been left in the shadows.

Vatican City, present day: Papal secretary Father Colin Michener is concerned for the Pope. Night after restless night, Pope Clement XV enters the Vatican’s Riserva, the special archive open only to popes, where the Church’s most clandestine and controversial documents are stored. Though unsure of the details, Michener knows that the Pope’ s distress stems from the revelations of Fatima.

Equally concerned, but not out of any sense of compassion, is Alberto Cardinal Valendrea, the Vatican’s Secretary of State,. Valendrea desperately covets the papacy, having narrowly lost out to Clement at the last conclave. Now the Pope’s interest in Fatima threatens to uncover a shocking ancient truth that Valendrea has kept to himself for many years.

When Pope Clement sends Michener to the Romanian highlands, then to a Bosnian holy site, in search of a priest–possibly one of the last people on Earth who knows Mary’s true message– a perilous set of events unfolds. Michener finds himself embroiled in murder, suspicion, suicide, deceit, and his forbidden passion for a beloved woman. In a desperate search for answers, he travels to Pope Clement’s birthplace in Germany, where he learns that the third secret of Fatima may dictate the very fate of the Church–a fate now lying in Michener’s own hands.

Excerpt

Vatican City
Wednesday, November 8th, The Present
6:15 a.m.


Monsignor Colin Michener heard the sound again and closed the book. Somebody was there. He knew it.

Like before.

He stood from the reading desk and stared around at the array of baroque shelves. The ancient bookcases towered above him and more stood at attention down narrow halls that spanned in both directions. The cavernous room carried an aura, a mystique bred in part by its label. L’ Archivio Segreto Vaticano. The Secret Archives of the Vatican.

He’d always thought that name strange since little contained within the volumes was secret. Most were merely the meticulous record of two millennia of Church organization, the accounts from a time when popes were kings, warriors, politicians, and lovers. All told there were twenty-five miles of shelves which offered much if a searcher knew where to look.

And Michener certainly did.

Re-focusing on the sound, his gaze drifted across the room, past frescos of Constantine, Pepin, and Frederick II, before settling on an iron grille at the far side. The space beyond the grille was dark and quiet. The Riserva was accessed only by direct papal authority, the key to the grille held by the Church’s archivist. Michener had never entered that chamber, though he’d stood dutifully outside while his boss, Pope Clement XV, ventured inside. Even so, he was aware of some of the precious documents that windowless space contained. The last letter of Mary, Queen of Scots, before she was beheaded by Elizabeth I. The petitions of seventy-five English lords asking the pope to annul Henry VIII’s first marriage. Galileo’s signed confession. Napoleon’s Treaty of Tolentino.

He studied the cresting and buttresses of the iron grille, a gilded frieze of foliage and animals hammered into the metal above. The gate itself had stood since the fourteenth century. Nothing in Vatican City was ordinary. Everything carried the distinctive mark of a renowned artist or a legendary craftsman, someone who’d labored for years trying to please both his God and his pope.

He strode across the room, his footfalls echoing through the tepid air, and stopped at the iron gate. A warm breeze swept past him from beyond the grille. The right side of the portal was dominated by a huge hasp. He tested the bolt. Locked and secure.

He turned back, wondering if one of the staff had entered the archives. The duty scriptor had departed when he’d arrived earlier and no one else would be allowed inside while he was there, since the papal secretary needed no babysitter. But there were a multitude of doors that led in and out, and he wondered if the noise he’d heard moments ago was that of ancient hinges being worked open, then gently closed. It was hard to tell. Sound within the great expanse was as confused as the writings.

He stepped to his right, toward one of the long corridors–the Hall of Parchments. Beyond was the Room of Inventories and Indexes. As he walked, overhead bulbs flashed on and off, casting a succession of light pools, and he felt as if he was underground, though he was two stories up.

He ventured only a little way, heard nothing, then turned around.

It was early in the day and mid-week. He’d chosen this time for his research deliberately–less chance of impeding others who’d gained access to the archives, and less chance of attracting the attention of Curial employees. He was on a mission for the Holy Father, his inquiries private, but he was not alone. The last time, a week ago, he’d sensed the same thing.

He re-entered the main hall and stepped back to the reading desk, his attention still on the room. The floor was a zodiacal diagram oriented to the sun, its rays able to penetrate thanks to carefully positioned slits high in the walls. He knew that centuries ago the Gregorian calendar had been calculated at this precise spot. Yet no sunlight leaked in today. Outside was cold and wet, a mid-autumn rainstorm pelting Rome.

The volumes that had held his attention for the past two hours were neatly arranged on the lectern. Many had been composed within the past two decades. Four were much older. Two of the oldest were written in Italian, one was in Spanish, the other in Portuguese. He could read all of them with ease–another reason Clement XV coveted his employment.

The Spanish and Italian accounts were of little value, both re-hashes of the Portuguese work: A Comprehensive and Detailed Study of the Reported Apparitions of the Holy Virgin Mary at Fatima—May 13, 1917 to October 13, 1917.

Pope Benedict XV had ordered the investigation in 1922 as part of the Church’s investigation into what supposedly had occurred in a remote Portuguese valley. The entire manuscript was handwritten, the ink faded to a warm yellow so the words appeared as if they were scripted in gold. The Bishop of Leira had performed a thorough inquiry, spending eight years in all, and the information later became critical in the 1930 acknowledgment by the Vatican that the Virgin’s six earthly appearances at Fatima were worthy of assent. Three appendices, now attached to the original, were generated in the 1950s, 60s, and 90s.

Michener had studied them all with the thoroughness of the lawyer he’d been trained by the Church to be. Seven years at the University of Munich had earned him his degrees, yet he’d never practiced law conventionally. His was a world of ecclesiastical pronouncements and canonical decrees. Precedent spanned two millennia and relied more on an understanding of the times than on any notion of stare decisis. His arduous legal training had become invaluable to his Church service, as the logic of the law had many times become an ally in the confusing mire of divine politics. More importantly, it had just helped him find in this labyrinth of forgotten information what Clement XV wanted.

The sound came again.

A soft squeak, like two limbs rubbing together in a breeze, or a mouse announcing its presence.

He rushed toward the source and glanced both ways.

Nothing.

Fifty feet off to the left, a door led out of the archive. He approached the portal and tested the lock. It yielded. He strained to open the heavy slab of carved oak and the iron hinges squealed ever so slightly.

A sound he recognized.

The hallway beyond was empty, but a gleam on the marble floor caught his attention.

He knelt.

The transparent clumps of moisture came with regularity, the droplets leading off into the corridor, then back through the doorway into the archive. Suspended within some were remnants of mud, leaves, and grass.

He followed the trail with his gaze which stopped at the end of a row of shelves. Rain continued to pound the roof.

He knew the puddles for what they were.

Footprints.
Steve Berry|Author Q&A

About Steve Berry

Steve Berry - The Third Secret

Photo © Kelly Campbell

Steve Berry is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of The Lincoln Myth, The King’s Deception, The Columbus Affair, The Jefferson Key, The Emperor’s Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room. His books have been translated into 40 languages with more than 17,000,000 copies in 51 countries.
 
History lies at the heart of every Steve Berry novel. It’s this passion, one he shares with his wife, Elizabeth, that led them to create History Matters, a foundation dedicated to historic preservation. Since 2009 Steve and Elizabeth have traveled across the country to save endangered historic treasures, raising money via lectures, receptions, galas, luncheons, dinners, and their popular writers’ workshops. To date, nearly 2,500 students have attended those workshops. In 2012 their work was recognized by the American Library Association, which named Steve the first spokesman for National Preservation Week. He was also appointed by the Smithsonian Board of Regents to serve on the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board to help promote and support the libraries in their mission to provide information in all forms to scientists, curators, scholars, students, and the public at large. He has received the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award and the 2013 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers. His novel The Columbus Affair earned him the Anne Frank Human Writes Award, and his historic preservation work merited the 2013 Silver Bullet from International Thriller Writers.
 
Steve Berry was born and raised in Georgia, graduating from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He was a trial lawyer for 30 years and held elective office for 14 of those years. He is a founding member of International Thriller Writers—a group of more than 2,600 thriller writers from around the world—and served three years as its co-president.
 
For more information, visit www.steveberry.org.

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Steve Berry


Question: How timely did your novel, The Third Secret prove to be, vis a vis recent events in Rome?

Steve Berry:
Benedict XVI is now pope. In The Third Secret my pope is named Clement XV. Both men are German, in their seventies, a product of the Vatican (having held high office in the curia), elected quickly after a long pontificate as a transitional pope, who face monumental issues of great importance to the Church. I’d say the similarities are remarkable.


Q: And the plot, was it likewise timely?

SB:
All of the hot button issues that were in the news at the time concerning the Church in the modern world and the challenges the new pope faced were dealt with in The Third Secret, along with a shocking revelation that literally changes everything.


Q: The prophecies of St. Malachy figure prominently into the plot. Are these as accurate as you make them in the novel?

SB:
Absolutely, and Malachy himself is not all that well known. He was an obscure Irish bishop who, in 1139, visited Rome and experienced a vision of the future, a long list of men who would one day rule the Church. He committed his vision to parchment and presented the manuscript to Pope Innocent II, tagging each of his future popes with short, descriptive Latin labels starting with Celestine II in 1143 and ending 111 popes later with the supposed last pontiff. Interestingly, St. Malachy’s predictions ultimately proved applicable about 90 percent of the time. An example: Leo XIII was the 102nd pope and A Light in the Sky was his attributed motto. Amazingly, the papal arms of Leo showed a comet.  The 111th pope Malachy predicted is labeled From the Glory of the Olive, and in The Third Secret that motto fits Clement XV perfectly. Whether or not this label will fit Benedict XVI, who now fills that slot, remains to be seen. Both, though, precede Malachy’s final pope, the 112th, about which he said: In the final persecution of the Holy Roman Church there will reign Peter the Roman who will feed his flock among many tribulations, after which in the seven hilled city the dreadful judge will judge all people.



Q: With all of the similarities between Benedict, Clement, and the plot, do you feel a little like St. Malachy?

SB:
Certainly I’m no Malachy. What I did was conceive, research, then write a story that seemed a logical extension to the Church’s many recurring dilemmas. The Third Secret deals with that line between religion and faith. It’s certainly interesting that my pope and the current pope are so similar. Particularly since the idea for The Third Secret was conceived in 1999 and the manuscript was submitted to Ballantine Books in 2004. But is that prophecy? I’d like to think it was an educated guess.


Q: The third secret itself refers to the famous visions of the Virgin Mary experienced by three children in the town of Fatima, Portugal, in 1917. What drew you to this subject?

SB:
I was born and raised Catholic, attended Catholic school, and was always fascinated by Fatima. I recall a paperback book on Fatima for sale at the church when I was a kid. On the cover was an image of the Virgin Mary and that was my first time reading about Marian visions. Forty years later, when I reached a point where I was writing novels, this subject seemed a natural, particularly considering all of the mystery associated with the third secret.


Q: But hasn’t the Vatican divulged all of the secrets, including the third?

SB:
The first two secrets were revealed shortly after the 1917 apparitions. The third was made public in May, 2000 when John Paul II finally released the text. But, interestingly, Sister Lucia, the Fatima seer who penned the secret, made no public statements or confirmations about the release. Also, the actual text was somewhat anticlimatic. The third secret is a complex metaphor that, on first blush, makes little sense. Consequently, many observers (including some high ranking Vatican officials) were quoted in 2000 as believing that there might be more to the message.


Q: How did your personal religious beliefs influence the novel?

SB:
Not all that much. But there’s a clear difference between faith and religion, and this plot explores that distinction, while simultaneously solving the greatest mystery of all time.


Q: Why has the Virgin Mary become such a popular figure for so many Catholics around the world?

SB:
It’s what she represents. Her total innocence. People have been drawn to her for two thousand years.


Q: What challenges did you face in writing a thriller about the Catholic Church that features the internal politics of the Vatican? How did you do your research into what is not exactly the most open and accessible of institutions?

SB:
This book was fairly easy to research since there are so many primary and secondary sources. A lot of insiders have written about their Vatican experiences, so if not wholly lifted, the veil of secrecy that perpetually shrouds the Vatican is now more transparent. What I didn’t want to do was implicate an actual person in any supposed religious cover-up. Thankfully, with the public release of the third secret in 2000, I was able to accomplish that by using fictional characters as the bad guys.


Q: Are you worried about harsh reactions from Catholics who might feel you are not being sensitive to their religion and faith?

SB:
Hopefully readers will remember that this is a novel and the primary goal of a novel is to entertain. The plot is from my imagination. I’m certainly not trying to make any social or political statement. I just want the reader to enjoy themselves for a few hours and, if the plot gets them thinking and talking, then so much the better.


Q: Why do you think novels about the Catholic Church are so popular today . . . and especially novels in which the church plays an ambiguous or even a negative role?

SB:
Few of man’s institutions can claim to have survived 2000 years, but the Roman Catholic Church has done just that. Of course, the Church’s self-imposed aura, magnified through rigid secrecy and sometimes unbending attitudes, certainly adds to its mystery. Unfortunately, success breeds both admiration and contempt. And the Catholic Church, if nothing else, has been successful.

Q: Tell us about your hero, Colin Michener, a conflicted priest with a troubled past.

SB:
As a young priest, Colin loved a woman and he can’t understand why that’s wrong in the eyes of the Church. Now he’s the papal secretary, in a position to actually change things, and when this woman reappears his troubles start all over again. But that personal dilemma is compounded by Clement XV, who pushes Michener one way, while the Church yanks him in another direction. Ultimately, it’s finding the complete third secret of Fatima that will resolve this conflict and, in the process, produce a whole new set of problems for Michener. So he has a lot to deal with. I like ordinary people being thrust into extraordinary situations, and Michener certainly finds himself in the center of something extraordinary. Also, his name is special, too. James Michener is my favorite writer, so I named this character after him as a tribute.


Q: The novel takes place after the death of John Paul II, when Clement XV is pope. What kind of pope is Clement? And Clement’s rival for power, and the odds-on favorite to succeed him as pope, is Cardinal Valendrea, a staunch traditionalist. Tell us about him.

SB:
Clement, like the current Benedict XVI, was supposed to be a transitional pope. An older man placed on the throne of St. Peter simply to keep the chair warm until one of the younger cardinals could muster enough votes to get himself elected. But, like John XXIII, who was also supposed to be a caretaker pope, Clement starts to change everything, and this brings out opponents, especially Cardinal Valendrea, who detests anything that varies from the established order. This conflict exists within the Church today. Liberals and conservatives are battling for theological control and that war is graphically illustrated in this novel, with an added twist from a surprising third player, which makes the conflict that much more interesting.


Q: Does the Catholic Church need to change in order to thrive into the future? If so, what changes does it need to make, and do you believe it will be capable of making them in the post-John Paul II era?

SB:
Change is exactly how the Catholic Church has survived for two millennia. That’s the Church’s greatest attribute – and inevitably it always adapts to the evolving world. Granted, the Church can take its time in making that move, but change has always come.

Q: What about Colin Michener, will we ever see him again?

SB: He's a fascinating character who may well star again in another novel. I'd love to explore him, and the new Catholic Church created in The Third Secret, further. But, you never know about Colin. He might just show up in a cameo role when you least expect it.

Praise

Praise

Praise for Steve Berry

The Third Secret

“Controversial, shocking, explosive . . . rich in a wealth of Vatican insider knowledge and two thousand years of Virgin Mary visitations. The Third Secret will change our view of the relation between religion and wisdom.”
–KATHERINE NEVILLE, author of The Eight


The Romanov Prophecy

“Perfect for thriller fans and history buffs alike. Fabulous plot twists.”
–DAVID MORRELL, author of The Protector

“Compelling . . . adventure-filled . . . a fast-moving, globe-hopping tale of long-lost treasure and shadowy bad guys.”
–San Francisco Chronicle


The Amber Room

“Sexy, illuminating . . . my kind of thriller.”
–DAN BROWN, author of The Da Vinci Code

“Magnificently engrossing, with wonderful characters and a plot that speeds, twists, and turns. Pure intrigue, pure fun.”
–CLIVE CUSSLER, author of Sacred Stone
Steve Berry

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Steve Berry - The Third Secret

Photo © Kelly Campbell

9/18/2014 Muskogee Public Library
801 West Okmulgee Street
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