The Confessions of Pope Joan

A Vatican Secret Archive Thriller - Book 7

Amid the serene expanse of the English countryside, a chilling revelation begins to unfold, promising to shake the very foundations of Church history. Father Michael Dominic stumbles upon a cryptic diary that points to a hitherto undiscovered 1st century Gospel. As he steps into a labyrinth of shocking betrayals and bloodshed, he partners with Hana Sinclair, a sharp-witted journalist, to decode a secret tightly woven into the Church’s legacy. The Confessions of Pope Joan narrates a tale pulsating with bravery and conviction, recounting their perilous journey against an adversary bent on concealing the truth.

As their quest progresses, the shadows of the past reveal the existence of Pope Joan, the Church’s forgotten female pontiff, her reign erased by the passage of time and a curtain of conspiracy. Embarking on a path teeming with treachery and power plays, they grapple against a society deeply entrenched in patriarchal norms. On a parallel course, Detective Inspector Grace Dempsey, drawn into a murder mystery in England, unexpectedly finds herself linked to this historic unveiling. Their stories weave together, crafting a suspenseful saga that melds the past with the present, blurring the line between reality and fiction.

Simultaneously, Pope Ignatius, Michael’s frail father, is engaged in his own internal strife, contending with the burden of his legacy. Caught in the crossfire between preserving the Church’s history and molding its destiny, his choices become the linchpin in the pursuit of truth. His bold move to enact change through two Apostolic Constitutions ushers in a potential new epoch in the Church, pushing against age-old doctrines and customs.

The Confessions of Pope Joan seamlessly merges historical revelation with a captivating mystery, while highlighting the tenacity of the human spirit. The narrative probes the deepest corridors of the Catholic Church, revealing long-guarded secrets. With a cast of dynamic characters, intricate plot twists, and thought-provoking perspectives, this novel invites readers on an enthralling journey where history and the present merge to redefine the future. As the layers unfold, The Confessions of Pope Joan nudges its readers to confront the familiar and contend with the inconceivable, establishing itself as a compelling read for enthusiasts of historical thrillers.

September/October 2023
#1 Conspiracy Thrillers
#1 Historical Thrillers

September 2023

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Select Reviews for "The Confessions of Pope Joan"

“Always eager to read the work of Gary McAvoy, I gladly accepted this ARC, the latest in the Vatican Secret Archive series. The story pulls on yet another aspect of early Christianity that is sure to rock the modern Christian world. McAvoy writes not only to educate on these revelations, but is able to produce a thriller that holds up against many of the other authors in the genre. McAvoy’s book provides some strong arguments for the inclusion of these newly unearthed views, which adds a subtle political element to the larger Vatican reaction. McAvoy’s ability to mix fact and fiction is second to none, forcing the reader to posit what might be truth and where the fabrication commences. Another great piece in this strong series with a gripping final few chapters.

While visiting a friend in the English countryside, Father Michael Dominic makes an unusual discovery when he comes across an old riddle that points to an ancient church. When Father Dominic and his entourage discover the cryptic diary of an old figure long thought to be a fallacy in the Catholic world, they are stunned. This is only further exacerbated when the 1st century Gospel found alongside it reveals new thoughts long buried by early biblical scribes. The diary of Pope Joan, long-thought a 9th century rumour, explores a voice for women that was far from common (or permitted) at the time. The purported Gospel of Salome, an early follower of Jesus, shows a completely different perspective for women and the means of understanding sin in its earliest form. Father Dominic and his close friend, sharp-witted journalist Hana Sinclair, know that they have something intense on their hands now. They are sure it will also cause many waves should it see the light of day.

When news of the discovery makes its way to Lord Lucius Pelham, a powerful Englishman with numerous connections, the concern over the documents increases. Lord Pelham leads a secret group within the Catholic Church, the Order of Papal Guardians, and vows to ensure neither of these relics see the light of day, promising he will stop at nothing to have them destroyed. When a local vicar is found murdered, Detective Inspector Grace Dempsey finds herself on the scene to explore what’s happened. Father Dominic and his entourage are questioned, as they were on site, though they are soon cleared by DI Dempsey. Still, it is a warning in an ongoing game of cat and mouse, as they return with the relics to the Vatican, in hopes of showing the current pontiff.

As Pope Ignatius learns of the diary and gospel document, he is deeply concerned. He knows that his time is short and hopes to shape his legacy, but is also not sure how the Church will handle the news of Pope Joan’s existence and what the Gospel of Salome might mean for future teachings. Father Dominic can only imagine that it is burden that could have heavy consequences.

While Lord Pelham seeks to capture the two relics and see one of Father Dominic’s close friends framed for murder, he will have to do more than simply wish it into being. DI Dempsey is aware of Pelham’s antics and history for meddling, using his powerful connections to get what he desires. Pope Ignatius must also decide how to handle the news of the diary and Gospel, as well as what it means for the future of the Church. Whatever he decides, there will be those on both sides of the argument sure to press him to turn their way. All the while, Father Dominic has an epiphany of his own involving Hana Sinclair, something that has been brewing for a while. All this, with a pending political cloud looming over the Holy See, which could change its perspective significantly. Gary McAvoy pulls the reader into a handful of poignant moments in the series, sure to intrigue those who have followed along from the very beginning.

The detailed writing of Gary McAvoy makes this series and the larger group of books related to Father Michael Dominic not only a joy to read, but provides numerous points of educational insight. While the books are deeply rooted in Christian history and the role played by the Catholic Church, they are not meant to inculcate the reader into believing a set of views espoused by the author. Rather, they seek to provide moments of thought as McAvoy hopes to leave the reader with some introspection.

McAvoy offers the reader a strong narrative foundation, permitting them to follow the story with relative ease. There is a mixture of action and education woven into each page, as things progress and the reader is highly entertained. Within the narrative is a building, not only of the subject matter at hand, but the connections between the characters and role of the Church in society. The characters, many of whom have been around for numerous books, help shape the story as well. Some work to build the thriller angle, while others push a deeper religious perspective, both of which are essential to better understand the book and the series, The Dominic-Sinclair connection, which has been a matter of some interest to series fans, gets a lot of time as well, though some of it more subtly than might be wanted. This enriching of the larger story can be appreciated by those who have a firm grasp of the series. Plot twists emerge and build on one another with ease. McAvoy has long been known to add moments of action and religious curiosity, both of which fuel the plot developments and keep the story from becoming too predictable. There is a strong sense of something extreme coming in the near future, which I am sure McAvoy has been planning for a few novels, I cannot wait to see how the cliffhanger at the end will play into the next novel and what role Father Michael Dominic might have moving forward.

Kudos, Mr. McAvoy, for another chilling thriller. I love your views, your insights, and your ability to grip the reader so effectively.” — MATT PECHEY, Reedsy Discovery and Pechey Ponderings

“I first came across Gary McAvoy’s work a couple years ago during the summer of 2021. My personal life was a bit stressful at the time, and I ordered The Magdalene Deception from a Facebook ad hoping it would provide a nice distraction. I got completely immersed in the adventures of Michael Dominic, and I’ve now read all ten books in the series, with The Confessions of Pope Joan being one of the strongest entries.

The Confessions of Pope Joan again follows Father Michael Dominic and his circle of friends as they travel to England and come across a cryptic poem hidden in the pages of an ancient Bible. The clues in the poem lead them to Sherborne Abbey, where they uncover an old diary written by Joan Anglicus, the only female pope in church history whose existence before this discovery was thought by most to be a myth. Within this diary, they stumble upon yet another document leading them to the long-lost Gospel of St. Salome. Together, Pope Joan’s diary and Salome’s Gospel paint a compelling picture of influential women shaping the Catholic Church’s history, a revelation that runs counter to accepted church doctrine and has the potential to completely upend the church’s current power structure. Naturally, there are parties intent on suppressing this information at all costs. It is up to Michael and his newfound allies in the Fellowship of the True Faith to protect this discovery from the machinations of Lord Pelham, an English aristocrat and head of the Order of Papal Guardians, who seeks to seize these artifacts for his own ends.

Gary McAvoy’s latest book seamlessly mixes adventure/discovery and action sequences while addressing important issues in the Catholic Church that have been whitewashed over for centuries. As social norms have evolved over the last two millenia, much of church doctrine has become archaic and obsolete. The requirement that priests remain unmarried and celibate very likely has contributed to many of the priest-related scandals we have seen in recent decades. The patriarchal power structure of the church has led to teachings that are out of step with modern sensitivities. The Confessions of Pope Joan offers us a glimpse of what a new and improved Catholic Church could look like where priests are allowed to marry and women are given prominent leadership roles.

The scenes where Michael Dominic and company follow clues to discover Pope Joan’s diary and St. Salome’s Gospel could be right out of a National Treasure movie, and one particular car chase scene is reminiscent of the Fast & Furious films. The ending is especially poignant as we witness the death of a long beloved character, while at the same time, Michael and Hana are finally free to pursue the relationship they’ve been wanting for the previous nine books.

All in all, The Confessions of Pope Joan hits all the right notes and should not be missed.” — BEN CHENG, Goodreads

The Confessions of Pope Joan, the latest installment in the Vatican Secret Archives series, is another thrilling combination of history, mystery, and action. This time, Father Michael Dominic and his friends team up to protect the diary of a ninth-century pope and a lost first-century gospel, both of which challenge Church tradition and just might prove to be catalysts for unparalleled but overdue changes within the Church itself. An enjoyable read on all counts!” – DONNA MARIE WEST, author of The Mud Man.

“One of the best series I’ve ever read and the latest, The Confessions of Pope Joan is phenomenal!  … Mr. McAvoy always gives me a superior mystery where the main sleuth is a priest! I know, not the first side job you think of when thinking about a Catholic priest but with his side kick and love interest, yes, this priest has a girlfriend, but not really because he’d never think of breaking his vows. He loves being a priest but he’s also a thinker and he often times questions what he knows to be true and then there’s that nagging feeling of love he has for Hana Sinclair his long-time cohort in searching out the clues and solving Vatican related crimes.

Michael and Hana have been my two favorite characters since about the middle of book 1, The Magdalene Deception. I’ve loved reading and keeping up on their cat and mouse game of a relationship. It’s been gratifying and irritating all at once sometimes. The premise of this book surrounds Pope Joan, the may have, may not have existed ever female pope. Always good story fare, in my book, as I’ve been on the side of good while fighting for women’s rights and yes, that includes the Catholic Church for decades. So, this book is for me, it’s the perfect next book after the previous books. And it’s as thrilling as the rest with non-stop action and always that hint of romance that you and I know break all the rules, but just can’t get enough of. Sounds great huh?

We also got to share a very touching moment with Michael and his father. I don’t cry over books, but I did get misty but it’s only credit to the author. He writes a thrilling moment as well as he writes a romantic scene. The story flowed quickly and it’s so exciting and well written you can’t put it down. It’s unputdownable! If you’re to this point in the series you get what I’m saying, but if you haven’t had the pleasure yet, grab that first one right away, I promise you’ll love it!

We met a couple new characters in this one, whether they’re returning I don’t know but every time Mr. McAvoy gives us a new character, it’s usually an important part of the story. I love when he does this, it keeps the stories fresh with new faces both good and bad. I truly can’t say enough about this series, it’s been a personal favorite and when a new book breaks, I can hardly wait to read it. Each one of them is a five-star book and I’m not alone on that as per Goodreads. Between the terrific characters the ever-evolving stories that are filled with thrills and action and but of course my favorite part will always be Hana and Father Michael as perfect fictional players who are fun, exciting and very entertaining to read. I love it! I absolutely know you will to! Happy Reading!” — KYMM CUMMINS, Advance Reviewer