Fiction 2018 / 377 pages
Genre: Thriller & Suspense
Of Bread & Wine
The death of Pope John Paul I is open to new questions, as a deathbed confession of a cardinal explores a plot to have him killed.
After steamrolling my way through two of his other books, I was eager to find Edward Izzi’s debut novel, which was just as enthralling and full of narrative treats. When an American monseigneur is sent to give the last rites to a controversial cardinal, the deathbed confession yields more than he could have suspected. Michael Prescott learns of this confession from his dear friend and is asked to investigate some of the allegations made in the confession, which surrounds news that Pope John Paul I did not die naturally, but was murdered by those in the Vatican’s inner circle. While Prescott is in Rome, he encounters a journalist with the Washington Post, one Sienna DiVito, whose vacation to see her father after many years is interrupted when she is told to write about the news coming from the Vatican. While they work together, Prescott learns that Sienna’s father was once the head of Vatican security and has intimate knowledge about what happened to ‘the Smiling Pope’, as well as those who might have ordered the murder. Thickening the plot, a set of three valuable coins was given to the pope the night before he was found dead, but which disappeared the following day. Ties to the mafia are rampant and Prescott discovers that Vatican ruthlessness is second only to those of the Mafioso, with both groups keen on keeping their secrets from boiling over. Was Pope John Paul I’s death less than innocent, as the rumours have been building over four decades? Who was responsible for the killing and what reasons led to the act? Might these coins be at the centre of it all? All this and more come to the surface throughout Edward Izzi’s debut novel that stuns the reader will its revelations. Recommended to those who love a good thriller with strong Catholic undertones, as well as the reader who enjoys a fast moving narrative.
I stumbled upon Edward Izzi’s work the other week and have not been able to stop reading them. The detail Izzi puts into his work serves to shape the narrative in many wonderful ways. Michael Prescott, whose legal background serves him well in this novel—and a few other occasions in the subsequent pieces—is a great protagonist, seeking to find truths where others try to shield them. Prescott is determined to get to the core of the matter, even if it pushes him towards dangerous outcomes. When he finds himself tempted by Sienna, Prescott does not let anything derail his focus, but uses it as a fuel to forge onwards. Others serve as key characters throughout the piece, dabbling into the various aspects of the narrative, from Vatican officials, to mafia hit men and even those with journalistic capabilities. Izzi chooses well with these characters, helping to shape the narrative and tie in the tangential nature of the plot. The story is strong, building on a long-held belief that the death of Pope John Paul I was anything but natural. With no autopsy or other medical tests, no substantive proof has ever been unearthed about how the pontiff’s reign actually ended after 33 days in 1978. However, with this deathbed confession, Izzi resurrects the gossip and injects his own spin, sure to keep the reader hooked until the final reveal. Short chapters help keep the momentum up in this book and the reader will easily find themselves wanting more. A blend of Catholic politics and mafia enforcement, Izzi keeps the thrills high and has the reader begging for more.
Kudos, Mr. Izzi, for another captivating piece with strong Vatican and mafia themes. I have you on my radar and really hope you have more ideas to come in the coming years!
Chicago criminal attorney Michael Prescott is on holiday in Rome, and visits with his best friend, Monsignor Robert Cavalieri, a Special Diplomat to the Vatican. He is informed by “Fr. Rob” that Giovanni Cardinal Masellis, the “Mafia Cardinal”, who was once considered the most evil and influential cardinals at the Vatican in his day, has made a deathbed confession to him before his passing as to the details of the death and poisoning murder of Pope John Paul I. Masellis confesses to also spearheading the massive cover-up surrounding the pope's poisoning death in September, 1978. Unfortunately, his confession is secretly recorded by the Italian newspaper “La Republicca” and their ambitious editor, Max Gianforte. He desperately tries to find other sources within the Vatican to confirm the Cardinal's deathbed revelations. The Vatican is now concerned over the effects such media disclosure will have on the reputation of the Catholic Church. Almost forty years after the mysterious death of the pope, the Vatican is imbrued with the various documents and specific details regarding the circumstances of his death, especially the missing “Coins of Gregorio” a priceless gift donated by an influential Italian mobster, Don Giancarlo Cesario, the night before Pope John Paul I's murder. The gift was an attempt to bribe and influence His Holiness in the Vatican investigation into the Banco Ambrosiano scandal, for which the Cesario Family and Cardinal Masellis was significantly involved.
Novelist Edward IzziMeanwhile, wine master Marco DiVito, the former Vatican head of security and a distant cousin of the Cesario Family, now oversees his vineyard near the foothills of Rome. He is nervous and apprehensive over meeting his long lost daughter, Sienna DiVito. She is a prominent investigative journalist with the Washington Post, and DiVito abandoned her as a little girl in Boston over twenty years ago. The Post has asked her to investigate “one of the biggest stories to come out of the Vatican in decades.” Michael meets Sienna after losing his wallet at the Café Michelangelo in Rome, and after a few chance meetings, they begin a relationship. They set in motion their investigative search together into the certainty of Masellis's deathbed revelations, but Michael never reveals his relationship with the Vatican. He tries to temper her investigative efforts in discovering the truth of the Pope John Paul I's death.
As rumors swirl around Rome after the death of Cardinal Masellis, Italian crime boss Calogero "Don Charlie” Cesario believes that the actual murderer also possesses these missing, priceless coins. The crime family is also unhappy with the La Republicca and their intention to insinuate their family's involvement in the beloved Pope's poisoning death. He points his suspicions towards DiVito, and threatens him to either return the missing coins to the crime family or there will be “dire” consequences towards him and his beloved daughter.
These revelations of the Vatican's most corrupt Cardinal and the Mafia's search for the return of their missing heirloom coins threaten the lives of Michael and Sienna, and their investigative search reveals the total corruption and instability of the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church.