City of Secrets: The Truth Behind the Murders at the Vatican

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9780066209548: City of Secrets: The Truth Behind the Murders at the Vatican

On the heels of one of the greatest public scandals to rock the Catholic Church comes an explosive exposé of murder and corruption in the highest reaches of the Vatican, the oldest and most secretive autocracy in the world.

On the night of Monday, May 4, 1998, in Vatican territory, the bodies of the commander of the Swiss Guard, his wife, and a young lance corporal were found in the barracks of the picturesque force historically entrusted with protecting the pope. It was the worst bloodbath to take place in more than a century in the heart of the supreme authority of the world's one billion Roman Catholics. Four hours later, the Vatican announced that the lance corporal, twenty-three-year-old Cédric Tornay, had shot the couple, then committed suicide in "a fit of madness" brought on by frutstration with the unit's discipline -- a conclusion it reaffirmed after a nine-month internal inquiry.

But as John Follain's hard-hitting exposé shows, the official report was a travesty, a tissue of suppositions, contradictions, and omissions. Based on an exhaustive three-year investigation -- the first independent attempt to establish the truth -- City of Secrets reveals how the Vatican, the oldest and most secretive autocracy in the world, staged an elaborate plot to obstruct justice and hide the scandals it dares not confess. Echoing the pace and plotting of a highstakes thriller, Follain's true-life tale of intrigue moves from the guards' barracks and the pope's palace in Vatican City to Paris, Berlin, and the Swiss Alps, and features a fascinating cast: an old, suffering John Paul II; his chief bodyguard, formerly accused of spying for the Soviet bloc; a mysterious priest punished by the Vatican; and the powerful Opus Dei sect.

Timely and explosive, City of Secrets is the story of a still-unsolved crime committed on holy territory, and of a systematic attempt to hide the fatal failings of a security force charged with protecting one of the world's most influential leaders.

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About the Author:

John Follain has covered Italy and the Vatican as a correspondent for the Sunday Times since 1998. He is the author of the critically acclaimed titles A Dishonoured Society: The Sicilian Mafia's Threat to Europe, Jackal: The Secret Wars of Carlos the Jackal, and Zoya's Story: An Afghan Woman's Struggle for Freedom written with Rita Cristofari and Zoya. He lives with his wife in Rome.

From Publishers Weekly:

On May 4, 1998, Col. Alois Estermann, commander of the Swiss Guards, the Vatican force that protects the pope, was found shot dead in his apartment inside Vatican City, along with his wife. Also shot dead in the room was a young Swiss guardsman, Cedric Tornay. Three hours after the bodies were discovered, the Vatican released a statement naming Tornay as the killer, his motive a "fit of madness." Not so fast, thought Follain, author (Jackal, etc.) and Rome-based correspondent for the Sunday Times of London, who also figured that investigating the story would allow him insight into Vatican ways. This book presents his findings, written as a first-person investigation. This technique generates moderate suspense, as Follain follows up leads, interviews tangential figures in the case (the man who succeeded Estermann as head of the Swiss Guards, assorted clerics, the accused killer's mother et al.), and it allows for vivid firsthand accounts of the Vatican and its officials, as well as of London, Paris and Switzerland, where Follain's digging also took him. As Follain turns up evidence-mostly circumstantial and anecdotal-that the murders were more complicated than the Vatican opined, including apparent ties between Estermann and the conservative group Opus Dei and a possible homosexual affair between Estermann and Tornay, and as his outrage grows, his writing turns more lurid: his portrait of Monsignor Alois Jehle, chaplain to the Swiss Guards, which closes this account, drips with personal distaste. While by no means an objective account, then, the book does provide unusual access to inner Vatican circles and demonstrates that even those busy in pursuit of the divine can be human, perhaps all too human. 16 page b&white photo insert.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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