ON THE SHELF: Blog Posts

Provocative Stories for Disillusioned Catholics

An Accidental Pope SAMPLER

James Casper’s latest novel is a futuristic thriller that may be closer to the truth than we know. 

Dive in and get to know some of the characters: the introspective protagonist (Fr. Brandy), the daring-to-be-different foil (Fr. Vesuvio), and the wonderful husband and wife pair trying to solve the mystery. I don’t want to shout, “Spolier Alert,” so no hints on the antagonist. 

Whet your appetite for a chilling mystery.

Note: These are excerpts from the novel.

Father Aloysius Brandy:

The Stations of the Cross represent moments in all our lives. As individual waymarks, they serve to remind us of what Christ did, and what we who follow him must do. He gave us a way to understand our lives; the inevitability of pain and suffering; the need for support and encouragement from those who love us in the face of human cruelty and personal calamity. This depiction of the Fourth Station with Jesus meeting his mother has always said to me, ‘Take heart, for even this will have a happy ending.’ 

Porky and Harriet White:

Harriet laughed. “The car must have driven itself there. We have been dealing all along with a perfectionist, usually the first people to make mistakes.”

The full moon cast elongated St. Callixtus spire shadows through the locust grove into the hotel alley. A rabbit hopped through them. Porky liked rabbits. They made him happy, with their nonchalant meanderings in light and shadow, appearing ever so oblivious to dangers that might be near. The ways of a good lawman were the ways of rabbits, he mused. Rabbits only needed a sidearm, just in case. If he and Harriet ever had children, he would buy them a rabbit.

Father Vincent Vesuvio:

When he wasn’t clad in motorcycle leather, he might have been seen as Mephistopheles in a broad-brimmed black fedora wearing a cape. Tell him that you saw him as such, and he would laugh. He would raise one eyebrow and then another. His features would gleam with amusement. “What is better, to be a priest taken for the devil, or a devil taken for a priest?” He had had run-ins with more than one bishop.

Cardinal John Cudahy:

Behind the scenes there were even childish mutterings about Cudahy’s red hair—“dark ginger,” as some detractors described it, yet more the color of smoked paprika—colors in medieval superstition associated with Devil’s Spawn and stolen souls. No one would have dared mention this publicly. It was insinuated in utmost privacy by the Cardinal’s whispering enemies. It was like a dust mote dancing in a gilded Vatican hall beneath impressive chandeliers. Ginger was simply in the air somewhere. No one could be quite sure where, and of course balloting in the Sistine Chapel would be anonymous. Still, the Sistine’s painted walls and ceiling had many painted eyes and ears and here and there a secret. Enemies of great men, as Michelangelo knew, cannot be too careful.

Bishop Norman St. Clair:

“Most of the bishops would be in Rome right now, awaiting the joyful result, but the Holy See has mandated that many of us—I among them—stay at our posts, a matter of prudence in this age of terrorism. If a nuclear bomb were exploded at the Vatican with all of us there, the entire hierarchy would be wiped out, a disaster unparalleled in the history of the Church. Imagine that, Aloysius.”

“Just as it was the day after the first Easter, your Excellency.”

“Yes, a disaster,” said Bishop Norman, as if he had not heard.

George Cobb:

George, who could not have found his way out of a barn with its doors wide open, claimed to have discovered another pathway to divine forgiveness. Thus, he had joined the ‘liberated’ masses who no longer knew a confessional from a recessional, a prie-dieu from a bill to be paid beforehand, and he thought an examination of conscience a multiple choice take-home test.

Phyllis Cobb:

Like so many of the ‘let it all hang out’ generation, she preferred being out in the open, standing in a chronically short confessional line for the whole world to see her in all her disgusting nakedness—not literally of course. In an earlier age, she would have heaped ashes on her head and marched through the streets of Twin Rivers on her way to St. Callixtus. In that other world, she would have carried a placard upon which were written in large letters a declaration that she was no more than a worm.

No one confessed sins more audibly than Phyllis. Whispered transgressions were for cowards. Bernard Passmore could have heard her without the aid of his Blackbird. People in the confessional line would back away to distant corners to stare at floor tiles when she went in and closed the door. Father Vesuvio, and now Father Brandy, might have stayed in the rectory and listened to her sins from an open window.

Bernard Passmore:

Stark memories washed ashore in a tidal undertow. Beneath Bernard’s feet, a world was shifting, becoming even stranger than the strangeness George invoked at every chance. An ending and a beginning wrapped around each other. In the hotel alley, a phantom Vesuvio in black cape and hat bent over Fowler’s form. Death-white hands beneath crossed thumbs held a rosary of spaces without beads. Bernard shivered.

Bernard could be easily tempted. He discovered in human frailty a power source whose higher voltages were to be found in those an admiring, gullible public considered most upright. Atomic energy could illuminate entire cities. For Bernard’s purposes, whatever was said in the simple wooden shed called a confessional, and the threat of its exposure yielded far more power.

GET THE ANSWERS TO THE MYSTERY! You can buy the book here.


Sampler Pattern Image by ELLE RITTER from Pixabay