"Strange Gods" is a novel of high velocity intrigue, crime novel zest, and, like many great crime novels, a deep core quest for the cause of goodness and truth running through every twist and turn in the plot.
The novel, written by Pittsfield resident Monsignor John F. Mylinksi, opens with the dramatic assassination of the well-liked Cardinal Michael Manning, the sixth in a series of very suspicious and violent deaths of Cardinals. The latest in these high-profile deaths galvanizes Pope Thomas into action when he orders his right-hand man, and top American in the Vatican, Cardinal Michael O'Toole to find the best person to conduct a complete investigation. Cardinal O'Toole recruits Nate Condon, a devout Catholic, and a successful New York Attorney for the job. With a mandate from the Holy See to interview anyone potentially involved and with a mission to expose any corruption and murderous plotting within the inner workings of the Vatican and the Catholic Church, Nate begins his work by interviewing Monsignor Enrico Rodriguez within the Vatican Secretary of State, in the Apostolic Palace. After pouring coffee, Rodriguez begins the interview with a very pointed statement, "I hope that you are not easily scandalized Mr. Condon."
With that Condon states he is not and sites his work as a federal prosecutor for 10 years.
"Good," says Rodriguez. "You'll need a high tolerance for scandal if you are dealing with the church."
"Strange Gods" brings to hyperbolic levels the actions and machinations of very corrupt individuals of great power in the Vatican. It is a story of personal greed, mendacity and a war between good and evil as Nate Condon discovers the facts and the crimes and details it all in a lengthy report of corruption, scandal and murder. But as in any crime novel, this exposure of the truth has its risks and dangers. Threats are made, lives are lost, shots are fired, and characters disappear down alleyways in fear, pursued by assassins, because they talked too much.
"Strange Gods" reminds us through interesting historical perspectives and passages about long ago people and events, going back hundreds years, that what plays out in this novel is, in fact, not hyperbole for the Catholic Church. Even more corrupt times under Pope Julius III 500 years before and, of course, the well-known powers of the murderous Borgias are brought to mind for comparisons through Nate Condon's discussions. But the deep divisions in the Catholic Church and its current scandals and resultant loss of believers are all part and parcel for this honest and forthright novel.
The very thoughtful two-page foreword to "Strange Gods" by Peter J. Daly and John F. Myslinski creates a solid base from which to draw an outline of the Catholic Church now, and the mission of this novel to encourage a recovery in the schism dividing the Church today.
Monsignor John F. Mylinksi will be reading from "Strange Gods" and discussing the novel at 3 p.m. on Aug. 14 at The Bookstore and Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox.
Colin Harrington is the Events Manager at The Bookstore and Get Lit Wine Bar in Lenox, Mass. Colin welcomes reader comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
By Peter J. Daly and John F. Myslinski
Published by River Grove Books