Author: Robert Harris
Published: November 22, 2016
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 5 stars
The Pope is dead.
Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and eighteen cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election.
They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals.
Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.
Robert Harris has reawakened my love of tiny details. Normally I’m not that detail oriented with anything in real life, but you offer to take me on an hour by hour tour of the actions of Chamberlain at Munich or, in this case of the College of Cardinals picking a new Pope, then you bet your booty I’m gonna say yes while jumping up and down and feeling out in my pants. I acknowledge that a book about the Conclave is probably not that appealing to most, and certainly not to Catholics. If there’s anything I learned from this book, it’s that very little within the Vatican has to do with religion and politics play a bigger role in Conclave than the Holy Spirit. Since I’m not a Catholic, I wasn’t offended by anything I read, however, I wouldn’t recommend this to any Catholics.
There were certain things that I thought were relatively predictable so at first I was feeling smug that I had figured it all out barely halfway through. But then I got to the end, where I realized that I had been so distracted by the predictable, that I completely missed the twist. And oh what a twist! I really liked this book and I’d recommend it to any who love those little nitty gritty details of culture and history.
Author: Robert Harris
Published: February 1, 2000
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s Rating: 4 stars
Fluke Kelso was once a scholar of promise, but like so many in the highly competitive world of academia, he’s never delivered. But one night, at a symposium in Moscow concerning the release of secret Soviet archives, he is approached by Papu Rapava, a former Kremlin bodyguard with a story to tell. No one but the desperate Kelso would believe the tale, for what Rapava describes is a sort of Holy Grail among researchers: an actual diary left by Joseph Stalin himself. Such an artifact, if it’s genuine — and if Kelso can survive the fascist Vladimir Mamantov, who wants it for his own agenda — would be the coup of a lifetime for the discredited researcher.
Before Kelso can learn the location of the diary, Rapava disappears, and Kelso’s search for the former bodyguard leads him to the man’s daughter, a whore selling herself in the new Moscow of drugs, corruption, and the Russian mafia. With an unscrupulous American journalist hot on their heels, a major of the new KGB close behind, and the shadowy Mamantov following them all, the two follow a trail that leads from Moscow’s seedy underbelly to the industrial city of Archangel, where Russia once built her fleets of submarines, to a remote camp on the edge of the Siberian nothingness, and finally to a shocking conclusion that bites like the wind blowing off the tundra. What Kelso sees as the coup of his career might turn out to be the catalyst for an actual coup in Russia. There is a legacy behind the diary, a legacy of evil and death, and Fluke Kelso is unwittingly about to unleash it on the world.
Robert Harris has nudged his way onto my list of favorite authors! A hunt for Stalin’s lost papers?? Yes please! If there is indeed that expedition, I volunteer!
Archangel gave a great look at the little details of Russian politics, culture, geography, history, etc. Harris included references to before the fall of communism along with the more current government structure of recent years. He manages to write new stories about current subjects that you can’t help but believe, yet never names real leaders or current politicians. The beginning started a little slow, but I enjoyed the details of the old man’s story and Fluke’s plethora of research.
I’ll admit that I wasn’t sure how everything was going to come together. I was almost disappointed with the ending, yet Harris surprised me and I was pleased with how everything was tied up. Overall, this is a great book for historians and even for those who love nitty gritty historical detail!