The Second Messiah

A Thriller

LIST PRICE $30.99

About The Book

SOME SECRETS ARE NEVER MEANT TO BE REVEALED. FOR BEHIND THIS MYSTERY LIES A REVELATION THAT WILL MAKE YOU QUESTION EVERYTHING YOU BELIEVE IN.

In the desert near Jerusalem, an archaeologist is murdered after he uncovers stunning evidence in a Dead Sea Scroll about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. The two-thousand-year-old parchment containing enigmatic references to not one but two messiahs is stolen before it can be fully translated.

In Rome, a charismatic American priest with long-hidden secrets is elected pope, setting off widespread panic among some of the faithful who question whether he is the Antichrist or the world's new savior. As the conspiracy over the scroll explodes into a political and religious standoff, two people find themselves on the run, trying to stay one step ahead of unknown assassins in their search for truth.

Archaeologist Jack Cane and Israeli police inspector Lela Raul must solve the mystery of the Second Messiah and uncover the real secret behind the message of Jesus before they are permanently silenced and the scroll and its contents are forever lost to humanity.

Compared to the likes of John le Carré and Tom Clancy, Glenn Meade offers a tantalizing blend of fact and fiction that takes you on a thrilling ride from the first page to the last.

Excerpt

The Second Messiah
1



EAST OF JERUSALEM
ISRAEL

Leon Gold didn’t know that he had two minutes left to live and he was grinning. “Did anyone ever tell you that you’ve got terrific legs?” he asked the drop-dead gorgeous woman seated next to him.

Gold was twenty-three, a tanned, good-looking, muscular young man from New Jersey whose folks had immigrated to Israel. As he drove his Dodge truck with military markings past a row of sun-drenched orange groves, he inhaled the sweet scent through the rolled-down window, then used the moment to glimpse the figure of the woman seated next to him.

Private Rachel Else was stunning.

Gold, a corporal, eyed Rachel’s uniform skirt riding up her legs, the top button open on her shirt to reveal a flash of cleavage. She was driving him so crazy that he found it hard to concentrate on his job—delivering a consignment to an Israel Defense Forces outpost, thirty miles away. The road ahead was a coil of tortuous bends. “Well, did anyone ever tell you that you’ve got terrific legs?” Gold repeated.

A tiny smile curled Rachel’s lips. “Yeah, you did. Five minutes ago, Leon. Tell me something new.”

Gold flicked a look in the rearview mirror and saw sunlight igniting the windows and the glinting dome of a fast-disappearing Jerusalem. There was only one reason he stayed in this godforsaken country with its endless friction with the Palestinians, high taxes, grumbling Jews, and searing heat.

The Israeli women. They were simply gorgeous. And the Israel Defense Forces had its fair share of beauties. Gold was determined that Rachel was going to be his next date. He shifted down a gear as the road twisted up and the orange scent was replaced by gritty desert air. “Okay, then did anyone ever mention you’ve got seductive eyes and a terrific figure?”

“You mentioned those too, Leon. You’re repeating yourself.”

“Are you going to come on a date with me or not, Private Else?”

“No. Keep your eyes on the road, Corporal.”

“I’ve got my eyes on the road.”

“They’re on my legs.”

Gold grinned again. “Hey, can I help it if you make my eyes wander?”

“Keep them on the road, Leon. You crash and we’re both in trouble.”

Gold focused on the empty road as it rose up into sand-dusted limestone hills. Rachel was proving a tough nut to crack, but he reckoned he still had an ace up his sleeve. As the road snaked round a bend he nudged the truck nearer the edge. The wheels skidded, sending loose gravel skittering into the rock-strewn ravine below.

Alarm crept into Rachel’s voice. “Leon! Don’t do that.”

Gold winked, nudging the Dodge even closer to the road’s edge. “Maybe I can make you change your mind?”

“Stop it, Leon. Don’t fool around, it’s crazy. You’ll get us killed.”

Gold grinned as the wheels skidded again. “How about that date? Just put me out of my misery. Yes, or no?”

“Leon! Oh no!” Rachel stared out past the windshield.

Gold’s eyes snapped straight ahead as he swung the wheel away from the brink. A white Ford pickup appeared from around the next bend. Gold jumped on the brakes but his blood turned to ice and he knew he was doomed. His Dodge started to skid as the two vehicles hurtled toward the ravine’s edge, trying to avoid a crash. The pickup was like an express train that couldn’t stop and then everything seemed to happen in slow motion.

Gold clearly saw the pickup’s occupants. Three adults in the front cab, two teenagers in the open back—a boy and a girl seated on some crates. The smiles on their faces collapsed into horror as the two vehicles shrieked past each other.

There was a grating clang of metal striking metal as the rears of both vehicles briefly collided and then Gold screamed, felt a breeze rush past him as the Dodge flew through the air. His scream combined with Rachel’s in a bloodcurdling duet that died abruptly when their truck smashed nose-first into the ravine and their gas tank ignited.

Fifteen miles from Jerusalem, the distant percussion of the massive blast could be heard as the army truck’s cargo of antipersonnel mines detonated instantly, vaporizing Gold’s and Rachel’s handsome young bodies into bone and ash.



The Catholic priest was following two hundred yards behind the pickup, driving a battered old Renault, when he felt the blast through the rolled-down window. The percussion pained his ears and he slammed on his brakes. The Renault skidded to a halt.

The priest paled as he stared at the orange ball of flame rising into the air, followed by an oily cloud of smoke. Instinct made him stab his foot on the accelerator and the Renault sped forward.

When he reached the edge of the ravine, he floored the brakes and jumped out of his car. The priest saw the flames consume the blazing shell of the army truck and knew there was no hope for whoever was inside. His focus turned to the upturned white Ford pickup farther along the ravine, smoke pouring from its cabin. The priest blessed himself as he stared blankly at the accident scene. “May the Lord have mercy on their souls.”

His plan had gone horribly wrong. This was not exactly what he had intended. If the pickup’s occupants had to die, so be it—the priceless, two-thousand-year-old treasure inside the vehicle was worth the loss of human life—but he hadn’t foreseen such awful carnage.

He moved toward the pickup. A string of deafening explosions erupted as more mines ignited. The priest was forced to crouch low.

Seconds later his eyes shifted back to the upturned Ford pickup. He could make out the occupants trapped inside the smoke-filled cabin. One of them frantically kicked at the windshield, trying to escape. Nearby the sprawled bodies of a teenage boy and girl lay among the wreckage.

When the explosions died, the priest stood. His gaze swung back to the burning pickup. The desperate passenger had stopped kicking and his body had fallen limp. As thick smoke smothered the cabin, the priest caught sight of the leather map case, lying wedged inside the windshield.

He knew it contained the ancient scroll that had been discovered that morning at Qumran, and that the pickup was on its way to the Antiquities Department in Jerusalem with its precious cargo. But the priest was desperate to ensure that the scroll never reached its destination.

His orders from Rome were clear.

This was one astonishing secret that had to be kept hidden from the world.

Flames started to lick around the map case. “Dear God, no.”

He scrambled down the rocks toward the wreckage.
The Second Messiah
2



ROME

It began with an omen.

Some said the bizarre event in the Sistine Chapel that midnight had been prophesied by Nostradamus, that it was a sign destined to happen.

There were other signs.

The Eternal City had an air of stillness, as if a storm were about to break, but that evening the sky was clear, a soft wind blowing from the west. Rome’s usual aggression and bustle had become a hushed calm.

On the main roads and along the Tiber, drivers occasionally pulled in, switched off their headlights, and turned on their car radios. Around a densely crowded St. Peter’s Square, the media crews’ satellite dishes pointed skyward, as if seeking celestial guidance.

Powerful television arc lamps illuminated the Sistine Chapel, while in the seedy pickup bars of the city’s red-light district, even the prostitutes took time out from their evening’s work to listen to the media coverage chattering from televisions and radios.

After all, whoever was elected pope was predicted to be the last—the man who would supposedly face Armageddon—and hundreds of millions of people all over the world were anxiously awaiting news of his election.

The previous pontiff had been dead for twenty-eight days. After the ancient rituals had been observed, his body embalmed, his papal seals broken, and his burial completed, a solemn procession of 120 cardinals of the Sacred College, dressed in red hats and red silk robes, had filed into the Sistine Chapel to choose a replacement to fill the Shoes of the Fisherman.

After twenty-nine secret ballots, they had failed to elect a new pope. When the clock struck twelve and a candidate had still not been chosen, the church would face its fifth week without a leader.

Among Rome’s anxious clergy agreement was clear. By midnight, a decision had to be made.

Cardinal Umberto Cassini thought he was about to have a heart attack. A small, scrawny Sicilian with watery brown eyes who usually smiled a lot, Cassini wasn’t smiling now. Beads of perspiration ran down his face. His pounding chest ached with stress pains.

The air in the magnificent fourteenth-century Sistine Chapel reeked of sweat. Every window and door was locked and the lights were on. The temperature was up to a humid eighty and the tense atmosphere was expectant. Cassini glanced at the wall clock: 11 P.M.

Seated at his wooden table in the ancient chapel, Cassini shifted his eyes toward Michelangelo’s powerful wall painting depicting the horrors of the Apocalypse. Umberto Cassini was experiencing his own terror.

The history of papal elections was a stormy one. Cassini recalled a troubling fact—the conclave of 1831 had lasted fifty-four days and in the process the indecision had almost ruined the church. Tonight it seemed another nightmarish tempest was unfolding. As camerlengo, the head of the conclave, Cassini was the man on whose shoulders rested the task of ensuring a papal successor was chosen.

But the twenty-ninth ballot had been completed two hours ago and had failed to produce a pope. Cassini dabbed his brow and thought, Has God deserted His church in its hour of need?

Of the three main candidates, none had the eighty-vote majority required to win the election. It had been like that for nearly two weeks, the voting almost equal among the candidates, and it had proved impossible to break the deadlock. It was obvious that the conclave was in turmoil.

Cassini had prayed that the voting would reach a conclusion by midnight. Hoping to break the impasse, one of the Curia had proposed yet another new compromise candidate to join the other three contenders: the American, Cardinal John Becket. The strategy was obvious—that Becket might split the voting pattern and break the deadlock. Cassini nervously licked his lips. Sixty minutes remained to midnight and the tension was killing him.

He glanced over at John Becket, sitting at one of the tables opposite. He was an imposing figure. Tall and lean, with fair hair and gentle, honest blue eyes, the American was almost Christlike in appearance.

His face was deeply tanned and his hands had the rough calluses of a laborer. The kind of tough hands that might have built this very chapel. And yet there was something strangely regal about him.

Anyone in his company would at once have been aware of his incredibly powerful physical presence. Those who knew Becket spoke of his unique personality and charisma. The son of a Chicago lawyer, he had proved a learned, devout priest who had chosen to shun the many comforts of his American homeland for a deeply religious life.

An outsider, Becket had initially been considered a touch too young for the papacy at fifty-seven. This time, Cassini wondered which way the vote would go.

The Conclave of Cardinals had retreated to pray and seek further inspiration from the Holy Spirit. They had returned and placed their folded voting slips, first onto a golden platter, then into a gold chalice, to signify they had completed a sacred act. Then they had filed back solemnly to their individual tables and chairs and waited for the three scrutineers seated behind the platter and chalice to examine the slips and count the votes.

Now Cassini fidgeted nervously with his pectoral cross as the minutes ticked away. He saw the counters finish their work. One of the scrutineers approached him with the piece of paper bearing the result.

As he anxiously unfolded the slip of paper and read, Cassini felt absolutely stunned. Cardinal John Becket—81 votes. It certainly wasn’t the result Cassini had expected. Becket had not only completely changed the voting pattern, he had won. Despite the surprise result, Cassini felt overwhelmed with relief. He sighed deeply, felt the pains in his chest ebb away.

The scrutineer made the announcement. “Cardinal John Becket, eighty-one votes.”

As the remaining votes of the other candidates were read out, it hardly seemed to matter, for the tension in the chapel had been miraculously broken. All eyes had turned to John Becket, who simply sat there looking shocked, like a man who sensed danger all around him and saw no way of escape. He closed his eyes and his lips seemed to move in silent prayer.

Umberto Cassini rose majestically, despite his puny size. Accompanied by the master of ceremonies and the three scrutineers, he approached Becket. As tradition required, he asked the question in Latin that the elected pope was required to answer.

“Do you, Most Reverend Lord Cardinal, accept your election as Supreme Pontiff, which has been canonically carried out?”

Becket was silent and his eyes remained closed. Cassini nervously repeated the question. “Do you, Most Reverend Lord Cardinal, accept your election as Supreme Pontiff...?”

John Becket didn’t reply.

Cassini felt the tension rise in the chapel.

Very slowly, Becket’s eyes opened. He stood up from his chair, towering above Cassini and the others. Sweat glistened on Becket’s upper lip.

“Camerlengo, I am deeply moved by my brother cardinals’ faith in me. Words cannot express how humbled I feel. I honestly did not expect this result, which comes as a great surprise.” Becket paused as he took a deep breath. “I will accept my election, Camerlengo. I will accept in the name of—”

Becket’s voice faltered and his piercing blue eyes watered with emotion. “Forgive me, please. But before I continue, before I choose a papal name, I must explain something important to all present. Something deeply private that I have told no one until now. A secret in my heart that I feel must be revealed.”

Becket’s unexpected words had a stunning effect. An astonished hush settled over the chapel, as if all present expected a frightening confession. Cassini’s eyes flicked nervously to the bewildered faces of the cardinals seated around the chapel, then over at the wall clock—it was approaching midnight—before he looked back at Becket. “With respect, John, the rules make it quite clear. Your acceptance must proceed as protocol demands—”

“I am aware of the rules, Camerlengo. But I feel compelled by the Holy Spirit to speak. And once I speak, I fear some of my fellow cardinals may wish they had not elected me as their pope.”

The chapel was deathly silent. It seemed as if someone had pulled the pin on a grenade and everyone was waiting for the explosion to go off. Cassini, his heart again beating faster, drew in a worried breath. “And what is it that you wish to explain?”

For a time, John Becket didn’t speak, and then he looked out at his audience. “Long ago as a priest I made a promise to myself. A promise that if I was ever called to fill the Shoes of the Fisherman, I would do my utmost to fulfill certain personal goals. Those goals have been my lifelong ambition.”

Every pair of eyes in the majestic chapel focused on Becket. The fact that he was an American, born and brought up in Chicago, was only evident when he spoke. His Italian was reasonably fluent but America was there on his tongue like a visa stamp.

“The church is a rock, and I am well aware that rock isn’t malleable. But I made a pledge to myself that I would seek a new era of honesty, of truth within the church. If ever I was chosen as Vicar of Christ, I promised that my papacy would mark a new beginning, one that would require your help and support.”

The chapel was terribly still.

“Tonight, as we sit beneath Michelangelo’s vision of the Creation and the Flood, as we witness his frightening images of the Apocalypse, I am certain that what I propose may be seen by many among you as a threat. But I want to assure you it would not be so. It is something I am convinced Christ would have wished and which the church desperately needs. My promise was this: there would be absolute openness and honesty. There would be no more lies. No secrets kept from our flock or from the world. The church belongs to us all, not only to those who control the Vatican.”

A wave of disbelief spread through the astonished crowd.

“What exactly are you suggesting?” asked one elderly cardinal, ignoring protocol. “That we open the Vatican’s doors to public scrutiny?”

“That would be one intention of mine,” Becket answered firmly. “Nothing would be concealed. Even the darkest secrets hidden in our archives would be made public.”

There was a gasp from the audience and then silence. Cassini, standing in front of Becket, felt his chest about to explode. Never in the history of the church had anything like this ever happened.

Another cardinal asked, “And the Vatican’s finances?”

“Made public also.”

There was a murmur of disbelief from the listeners. Then Becket’s voice carried firmly over the hot, crowded chapel. “Did Christ want lies told? Did He want secrets kept? Did He want those of us in authority to behave like secretive, petty bureaucrats and banking officials? I cannot believe that He did. Above all, Christ believed in truth, as we should.”

Another elderly cardinal spoke up. “John, there are some things too dreadful for the world to know.”

Becket looked at the speaker, but his words were addressed to everyone present. “You mean there are some things the Vatican would not want the world to know. Things it has kept secret by design, unpleasant mistakes it has made that its flock should never know of. But they should know. Not just Catholics, but Christians everywhere. Our archives will greatly concern them too. Christians all over the world share a common purpose, and they have a right to know the dark secrets that have been kept in Christ’s name.”

Becket stared out at his audience, his arms held wide as if in pleading. “We ask our flock to confess the error of their ways yet we refuse to confess our own sins. How can this be right? You have chosen me and those are my intentions upon accepting the papacy. It will mark a new day, a new beginning that will return all of us to the ways of Jesus Christ. I have spoken.”

Some of the older cardinals looked deeply shocked, as if the devil himself and not the pope had spoken in their midst.

But most were profoundly moved, for it seemed a fresh blast of wind had suddenly blown through the musty Vatican corridors with the force of a hurricane. Every one of them knew he was in the presence of a man who radiated charisma and authority.

Umberto Cassini was quite dumbfounded and suddenly fearful. He looked up at John Becket, who settled his piercing, honest blue eyes on his audience.

“As for your fears, I will ask only one question. Have you no courage, my friends? The Lord may give us the burden. But He will also give us the strength to carry it. I accept my nomination as Supreme Pontiff. Ego recipero in nomen of verum. I accept in the name of truth. And the name I choose will be Celestine.”

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Second Messiah includes discussion questions and a Q&A with author Glenn Meade. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.

TOPICS AND QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION

1.      In The Second Messiah, the idea of a second coming is proposed by the author. Do you think that the world needs a second coming? If so, why? Do you think it’s necessary for mankind? What do you think the effects of a second coming would be worldwide? What effects would it have on you personally? If a second coming was to occur, how do you think it would manifest itself? 

2.      The new American pope, John Becket, decides to renounce all the trappings of a wealthy and a bureaucratic church, to leave the pomp and circumstance of religion behind and to embrace the simple ways of Christ by going out to the people, much as Christ’s apostles and disciples did. How practical do you think such an act would be if a church leader did likewise? Would it be popular and embraced by Christians? Would it spur them on to stronger faith? Would they admire such an act or consider it reckless? 

3.      John Becket wishes to unite different faiths to a common purpose. Do you think that’s feasible? Are different faiths really more alike than unalike in their belief in the idea of one God? Have we enough in common to find a shared ground that will help us to work together with a shared purpose in mind of spreading Christ’s word? What are the likely barriers to this shared purpose? How could they be overcome?

4.      Do you think that our society has become too materialistic? Too caught up in our own needs, wants, and pleasures? Or do you believe that God wants us to enjoy our time on this earth and indulge ourselves with our financial and material successes? How does the pursuit of wealth help us/affect us?  

5.      What did you enjoy most about the story? The thrilling action sequences? The characters and their relationships? The unraveling of the enigma of the second messiah?

6.      John Becket offers us reasons for our existence. Do you agree with his reasons? What do you think is the true purpose of our existence on this earth?

7.      The Dead Sea scroll that archaeologist Jack Cane discovers contains a dramatic revelation. From what you’ve learned in the book about the Dead Sea scrolls, do you think it likely that such a scroll will ever be discovered at Qumran? What kinds of secrets, revelations, or prophecies do you imagine it might contain?

8.      If such a scroll containing the revelation of a second Jesus were actually found, how do you think it would affect the church and the faith? Would it harm it? Help it in any way?

9.      Do you think that the important messages and teachings of Jesus Christ have been corrupted in any way since they were first communicated to us? If so, in what way? Is there anything we can do, individually or collectively as church members, to clarify those messages?  

10.  Jack Cane makes a habit of visiting his parents’ graves, where he prays and speaks to them. He likes to believe that his departed hear his words. Do you think the spirits of our loved ones have the ability to listen to us and watch over us? Have you any experiences of sensing departed loves ones close to you, in times of crisis or otherwise? Does this suggest to you another dimension of existence?

A CONVERSATION WITH GLENN MEADE

Most of your other books have been about political intrigue and murder in the twentieth century. What made you decide to take up the topic of archaeology and the Vatican in The Second Messiah?

Sometimes, stories find the writer and not the other way round. I think that happened with The Second Messiah.
 
Archeology and religion have always interested me—I’ve written about both before, though in a minor way—but I guess mulling over my own life kick-started me into combining both subjects in a novel.

At certain milestones in your life—once you have children and mature, once you lose a parent or a loved one—your own mortality smacks you like a billy club. For me, at least, I started to dwell a little more than usual on the eternal questions: Do I really believe that there’s a God and why? Is there definitely an afterlife, or am I gone for good once I exit stage left? After all these life experiences, what do I truly believe in?

Truthfully, I think I wasn’t just looking for answers to important questions—I was also looking for a subject for another book and somehow the two combined.

Big subjects interest me, especially topics that have a major influence on our lives. And there didn’t seem any bigger a topic than Jesus Christ, whose presence has had such profound consequence for the world. 

It struck me that I had never read a novel or seen a movie that explored the premise that there might have been not just one messiah in existence at the time of Jesus, but two (apart from the absurd movie, The Life of Brian). It occurred to me that if such had been the case and two messiahs had existed side by side at the same time—and the Bible is peppered with references to false saviors and prophets—then the pillars of faith might just stand on shaky ground.

Then the ‘what ifs’ started. What if, at the same time as the pillars of faith are being shaken by this revelation, a new pope is elected in Rome, a figure whose true motives are uncertain, who could wind up either being an antichrist or even a second messiah . . . ?

As I set about exploring the premise I knew that in many ways I would be stress-testing my own faith, or lack of it, and all those beliefs I had been brought up to accept as given without ever really questioning their veracity. The notion both intrigued and troubled me—and made for a very interesting journey.

Your books have been translated into more than twenty languages and distributed throughout the world. How do you feel The Second Messiah will resonate with Middle Eastern audiences as opposed to European and American audiences?

The Second Messiah has recently been published in the Middle East. It sold surprisingly well and received very good reviews. 

As always, stories are principally about characters and plot, but by taking readers on a journey into unfamiliar but interesting territory—in this case, one in which they learn about dark dealings and subterfuge in the Vatican and in the world of archeology—you’re hopefully going to stimulate their interest, regardless of their religious beliefs. 

Of course, Middle Eastern audiences are very familiar with the life of Jesus—considered an important and respected prophet by Islam—so they’re not entirely on unfamiliar ground.
 

The Second Messiah is both an impressive work of fiction and research. How much of this book is factual? Where and how did you do most of the research for The Second Messiah?

Although I like to think that my premise could be feasible, the story is of course fiction, braided with a lot of historical and contemporary fact. Even the Roman commanders and officials I mention by name in the course of the book existed. (We’re all prone to errors, even the experts I consulted with, but I like to think I did my research pretty thoroughly.)

Also, the background details I used in the various scene settings and locations, whether an ancient monastery, a location inside the Vatican, an archeological site in Israel or Syria, or just a restaurant in Rome, these places exist in reality.
 
Most of my research was done in Rome and the United States, with sources in the Middle East helping me with research there.

 
The vivid descriptions of many scenes in The Second Messiah, such as those set in the ancient Roman remains or the monastery in Maloula, suggest that you personally visited these sites. How many of the locations in the book were you able to visit, and how did these visits translate into what takes place in The Second Messiah?

I earned some air miles, for sure. I didn’t get to Maloula but I’ve visited places like it, and I did visit the Vatican and Rome on several occasions. As part of my research I stayed for many weeks in a monastery in Rome run by Armenian monks, where I had the smallest room in the cloister and the hardest mattress in the universe. Most evenings, while I was stuck in my closet-sized room mulling over research material, the Armenian monks drank wine with dinner and had their girlfriends over—when the latter made my eyebrows rise I was told by one of the monks that lucky for them the Armenian religious have an opt-out clause in regard to celibacy . . .

I kept this monastery setting in mind as the kind of refuge Pope John Becket flees to when he decides to leave the Vatican for good. But as tempting as it was to weave all the original details into the story, the monks were not Armenians who had their girlfriends come visit . . . 

I also spoke to archeologists and scroll and Bible experts in the United States and the Middle East and took several private and public tours of Rome’s incredible underground ruins—which feature in some of the book’s action sequences.

While you were doing your research, how helpful or reticent did you find the Vatican Press Office to be? Did this influence how the Vatican is represented in your book in any way?

To be honest, I didn’t find the Vatican Press Office all that helpful. I did thank them in the acknowledgments and they were certainly courteous in their dealings with me, but typical of most Vatican offices it often proved bureaucratic and guarded with its answers. 

I felt that the press office dodged getting its teeth into any questions I posed dealing with controversial subjects. Wander into that minefield and you began to feel like you’d gotten typhoid—they avoided you. 

It was my experience that many Vatican officials were ever busy trying to protect their rear. (I’m reminded of the life-long bureaucrat who famously wanted inscribed on his tombstone: “Am I covered?”)

By far the most helpful were individual Vatican priests and senior clerics who spoke to me off the record. 

There are some wonderful, hardworking men and women serving the church. But for sure the Vatican seems to have its share of the disaffected—quite a number of clerics I spoke with appeared unhappy with the church’s direction and its past failings in dealing honestly with various scandals and their victims.

A priest I met mentioned graffiti painted on one of the Vatican’s walls, allegedly by a disgruntled padre: “The Church believes in truth and justice—but obviously not for the faithful or for Vatican employees.”

What was the most surprising thing you discovered during the course of writing The Second Messiah

That I managed to both pose and answer for myself a lot of deep and troublesome questions that had rattled around inside my head for much of my life. In fact, no other book I’ve written has made me think so long and hard about my own existence and my faith—or why at times I’ve had a lack of it—and to try to figure out what’s really important in my life.

The writing of a book is always a journey—it sounds so clichéd but it’s true. Often, too, it’s an emotional release, a way to pressure-valve emotions and feelings. Fortunately for me, by the end of the journey I knew that I had answered many of my own difficult questions, or at least as best I could. I also encountered some of the most interesting minds I’ve ever met.

Even more happened in the process of writing but I think it’s too private to share in public. It’s enough to say that I feel the better for the experience of writing The Second Messiah. And grateful for the important truths that I learned along the way. 

 
There seems to be a critique of the secrecy of the Vatican and the general atmosphere of mystery within the Catholic Church in The Second Messiah. Do you wish there was a real-life John Becket who could take similarly courageous risks?

I sure do—a hope I’m pretty certain many of us would harbor. I think we all long for a messianic-type Christian figure to again appear who would set us to rights once more, reinvigorate our religious beliefs, and reset the world’s moral compass.
 
It’s often such a powerful motif—a longing for a savior who will administer justice and moral guidance—and such a recurring theme in our story-telling that I wonder if the seed of its yearning is in some way planted in our DNA.

The church wasn’t founded on secrecy, intrigue, and bureaucracy; but on love, truth, and justice. Those bedrock virtues are so often ignored by the Vatican when it faces public and legal scrutiny during investigations into its various sexual and financial scandals.

 
As you were crafting and developing your narrative, how present in your mind were the recent scandals in the Catholic Church? Did they play a part in your decision to write this book? 

To be honest, they didn’t. I was certainly aware of the powerful worldwide media attention they generated, but I really just saw them as another symptom of a seriously dysfunctional Catholic Church.

Scandal in various forms seems to be a constant—and incredible harm has been done to the Catholic Church over the years by pedophile priests in particular. (Though I dread to think of the harm that was done before the media age, when victims had little or no voice and the church’s authority went unquestioned).

I also think that the pedophile priests’ scandals have harmed as many good clerics as they have their victims. There are so many earnest men and women in the Catholic Church who dedicate their lives to Christ and who are sullied by the behavior of errant colleagues.

 

You mention in your author’s note that the account of a second messiah “has existed since the time of Jesus and is fact, not myth.” Can you elaborate on this?

Numerous references and warnings exist in scripture regarding false prophets and false messiahs. Jesus himself made some of these warnings. In Luke, for example, Jesus says: “Be not deceived for many shall come in my name, saying ‘I am Christ.’”

Acts 13:6 refers to the Jewish false prophet Bar-Jesus, encountered by Paul. Matthew 24:24 also refers to false messiahs and false prophets “who will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive.” Mark 13:22 says much the same. 

And the Old Testament is peppered with warnings of false messiahs.

The Jewish Talmud claimed that Jesus himself was a false savior, and the Jewish Bible, the Tanakh, is full of references to false prophets, some of whom claimed to be the chosen one. 

Regarding the premise of The Second Messiah, I think it’s highly plausible that Jesus had his pretenders and that such people existed in biblical times—some of them deranged, some of them fraudsters motivated by personal gain. 

Two thousand years ago in the Holy Land, identity theft was an easy matter and Jesus would have attracted a lot of attention, adulation, respect, and awe from his followers. He also attracted crowds, gifts of alms and money, and was accommodated with food and lodging most places he went.  Those are pretty tempting rewards to an impersonator.

Successful people have always had their imitators—pretenders who try to achieve notoriety on the backs of others. Whether it’s an Elvis impersonator or a businessman cloning a product idea, there’s always someone ready to cash in on achievement. Would it have been any different in Jesus’ time that someone might try to profit by imitating him? That you might have a Jesus alter-ego, a conman, traveling the Holy Land and hoping to profit by his pretence, financially, egotistically, or both? It’s possible. And it would have been easy to carry out such a deception. 

Travel in the Holy Land back then was done by donkey or horse or cart, or in most cases, by foot. Word traveled slowly and nobody carried IDs. How many people would have known what Jesus looked like in a town where he’d never visited before? In those days if someone showed up and announced that he’s Jesus the Nazarene, there’s a good chance many folks are going to just accept it.

 

What’s next for you? Are you interested in continuing with archaeological thrillers or is there another project in the works?

I’m glad to say that my next book also has an archeological backdrop.

Some years ago I wrote a novel entitled Snow Wolf, much of it set in Russia. It proved very successful internationally and was translated into over twenty languages. 

Russia intrigues me—the stoicism of its people; its vast, dramatic landscape and tumultuous history. And for all its legendary past enmity with the west and, in particular, the US, I have found that the average Russian holds the US and the American people in very high regard. Many Russians also remain deeply religious people—communism never managed to purge their faith. (I’ve visited the homes of old guard communists where I saw lit-candle shrines to Lenin on one side of the living room and religious icons on the other).

My interest in Russia goes back years. I can vividly recall as a young boy sitting in front of the TV and seeing my parents enthralled by David Lean’s movie Doctor Zhivago, based on Boris Pasternak’s sprawling novel of the same name. It was a wonderful story—powerful, dramatic, touching, and rich with many layers. As for the book, you either loved or hated it; technically it’s all over the place but it does capture the extraordinary essence that is Russia. For my next work, I decided to revisit that country and research a story that I’ve been interested in writing—like Snow Wolf, much of it is set in Russia and based upon truth.  

I’m almost finished writing the book but for me, talking publicly about stories I’m working on is a no-no. I feel that a writer can easily talk his story to death and dissipate his own need to write about it. So I’ll just say that I believe it to be a powerful, emotional story and I hope that readers will feel the same way.

 

About The Author

Photograph © Fred Cannon

Glenn Meade was born in 1957 in Finglas, Dublin. His novels have been international bestsellers, translated into more than twenty languages, and have enjoyed both critical and commercial success.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Howard Books (May 1, 2012)
  • Length: 528 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781451669442

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Raves and Reviews

"The Irish-born author (Snow Wolf) teeters on the edge of genius and sacrilege with this thriller about a subject known since the time of Christ. When archeologist Jack Cane discovers ancient documents that point to the existence of another messiah, he also quickly finds out that both Israeli and Catholic authorities have reason to possess, or suppress, such documents. Racked with the pain of personal loss, he meets up with an old friend, Lela, who is part of an Israeli police team investigating multiple crimes, including a cold case involving the possible murder of Cane's parents—also archeologists—20 years earlier. Some who have avoided Christian fiction or only dipped in will find this departure from the mold refreshing, even while some regular readers of Christian fiction may find certain passages revolting. Fans of Davis Bunn or Dan Brown won't bat an eye at Meade's unblinking look at the Vatican and the religious secrecy that fuels such novels. With a plot that screams, a controversial edge, and characters with attitude and something to prove, this has all the makings to be the next Da Vinci Code."

– Publishers Weekly

“Dan Brown meets Tom Clancy—Glenn Meade sure knows how to get your pulse racing. I was gripped from page one. Whether The Second Messiah is fact or fiction is up for debate, but one thing’s for sure—it’s one heck of a thriller. You know you’re in safe hands with Glenn Meade—The Second Messiah is a rollercoaster of a thriller that lifts the lid on the inner workings of the Vatican and leaves you wondering just how much of the fiction is actually fact."

– Stephen Leather, author of Nightfall

“A thrill a minute. A cross between Indiana Jones and Dan Brown. Thriller readers will love this book.”

– Midwest Book Review

“Tell Dan Brown to move over! It’s Glenn Meade’s turn.”

– Bookseller from Books & Co. (Dayton, Ohio)

"Reading similarly to both a Thoene novel and The Da Vinci Code, bestselling author Meade’s The Second Messiah will keep readers on the edge of their proverbial seats . . . The Second Messiah reads quickly and will hold the reader’s attention with its many plot twists. In the story, Meade also addresses the problem of suffering in an insightful comment from the pope. Fans of fiction tied to news headlines will enjoy this geopolitical thriller. Recommended for readers of Joel C. Rosenberg."

– Christian Retailing

"This novel is a Da Vinci Code-type thriller, but it’s far more. The secret scrolls and chases are standard thriller fare, but deftly handled. Some of the characters are particularly captivating, especially the new Pope, a true follower of God who’s tormented by his past and struggling with the future of the Church. This suspenseful book is well worth reading."

– CBA Retailers + Resources

"Written in the mold of The Da Vinci Code—sans all the erroneous claims (thankfully)—bestselling author Glenn Meade’s latest geographical thriller, The Second Messiah, keeps readers on the edge of their proverbial seats with multiple plot twists."

– Charisma

"Meade knows how to entangle, and untangle, an exciting array of characters and plots guaranteed to keep the reader hooked . . . a talented storyteller, he sets the scene quickly before taking off on a rollicking ride that keeps the pages turning. It’s a hard book to put down."

– Crosswalk.com

“Reads at a breathtaking, frantic pace from beginning to end. . . . A daring work of fiction that will have people talking.”

– Fresh Fiction

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