* excerpts from a review of “The Pope’s Conspiracy” by Shirrel Rhoades

Posted by Lew Weinstein on April 22, 2012

“The Pope’s Conspiracy is a literary time machine putting you in Renaissance Florence at one of the most spectacular periods in human history.”

great characters … a historical thriller … exciting twists and turns

Lew Weinstein is a serious-minded writer, political analyst, and historian. He’s an accomplished novelist, coming to the avocation late in life (if 55 can be called late these days).

His four published volumes have a common theme that he doesn’t mind acknowledging.

“My novels tell the stories of injustices perpetrated by people in power – the Catholic Church, prosecutors who abuse their power, and the FBI,” Lew says.

His latest – “The Pope’s Conspiracy” – is a historical thriller that takes place over the first six months of 1478, mostly in Florence, Italy. Based on historical events, “The Pope’s Conspiracy” brings the Renaissance alive. The story focuses on a young Jewish printer and his wife who become caught up in the political machinations of the Vatican. It is an adventure in the style of Umberto Eco’s “The Name of the Rose.”  

You will enjoy Weinstein’s attention to historical detail, from the workings of the Gutenberg printing press to a tour of Florence’s palazzi and piazzas. This verisimilitude serves as a literary time machine putting you (in your mind’s eye) in Renaissance Florence at “one of the most spectacular periods in human history.”

“I spent a good deal of time in Florence, virtually haunting the Palazzo Medici for several days,” he says. “I spent time with Masaccio’s frescoes, the Baptistry doors, and of course the Duomo. I attended mass in the Duomo, sat where Lorenzo was in my story, looked around to ‘see’ the assassins leap to the attack when the host was raised. Beyond that, I read everything I could find.”

“The Pope’s Conspiracy” is a sequel to “The Heretic,” which was published in 2000. However, either novel can stand alone, reading one not dependent on the other. Nonetheless, they form great companion novels and when I finished this epic, I was delighted to go back and read the other.

Like with the discovery of any great literary characters, I’m looking forward to a third installment of this brave Jewish couple’s exploits in a hostile Christian world. “There is a third book which is largely outlined,” Lew admits. “Maybe someday…”

But for now, Lew tells me he’s working on a novel set in 20th century Germany and Poland. “I intend to explore the process by which a decent likable German boy with no anti-Jewish feelings could be transformed into a Nazi killer.” 


Shirrel Rhoades is a syndicated columnist, book publisher, and former fiction editor for The Saturday Evening Post. He has held senior positions with Reader’s Digest Books, Scholastic, and Harper’s. He lives in Key West.


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