IN Rome, cardinals begin to arrive at the Vatican to mourn the recently deceased pope, as well as to select his successor. Meanwhile, there is an ambitious rogue cardinal who has fled Rome for Malta to look for the ancient document known as Constantine’s Gift, which will ensure his ascendance to the papacy.
This is the premise of Steve Berry’s latest thriller, featuring former Justice Department operative turned rare bookseller, Cotton Malone.
He arrives in Lake Como, Italy, on an assignment to find the letters exchanged between British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini, which reveal embarassing details about Italy’s efforts during World War II.
As Malone starts to look for the letters, he is confronted by members of the Knights of Malta. Then, he finds himself caught up in the politics and conspiracy of Cardinal Gallo, the papal aspirant, as well as having to deal with the subsector of the Knights of Malta – a Catholic grouping with its own agenda for the new pope.
Gallo’s estranged identical twin, Pollux, has been temporarily put in charge of the Knights, and he, too, seeks to thwart his brother’s ambitions.
Also within their ranks is the Secreti – an ancient sect of the knights – who is intent on influencing the outcome of the papal conclave as well. Malone soon finds himself facing these obstacles as he tries to carry out his mission.
There are lots of subterfuges and twists as Malone, with the help of Magellan Billet agent Luke Daniels, races the rogue cardinal, the knights, the Secreti as well as the clock, to find the secret that has been lost for centuries and to solve one of the mysteries of the Catholic Church.
A gripping novel with an exciting twist at the end. The Malta Exchange is a thriller in the class of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Angels & Demons.