Friday, September 29, 2023

The Confessions of Pope Joan by Gary McAvoy Book Review

About the Book:

In the heart of the English countryside, a discovery is made that threatens to overturn centuries of Church history. When Father Michael Dominic uncovers a cryptic diary leading to a lost 1st century Gospel, he is thrust into a labyrinth of deceit, murder, and controversy. Alongside Hana Sinclair, a savvy journalist, Michael sets out to unravel a mystery buried deep within the Church's past. The Confessions of Pope Joan is a gripping tale of courage and faith, charting their quest against a powerful adversary seeking to keep the truth hidden.

Their journey reveals the existence of Pope Joan, the first and only female Pope whose reign has been obscured by time and conspiracy. As they traverse the intricate tapestry of deceit and power, they must confront a society unwilling to relinquish its patriarchal hold. Meanwhile, Detective Inspector Grace Dempsey, assigned to a seemingly unrelated murder case in England, stumbles upon a thread that binds her to the historic revelation. Their paths converge, creating a thrilling narrative that intertwines past and present, fact and fiction.

As the Vatican's secrets unfold, Pope Ignatius, Michael's ailing father, battles his own legacy. Torn between preserving the Church's past and shaping its future, his decisions become paramount in the struggle for truth. The Pope’s radical stand for change, embodied in two Apostolic Constitutions, sets the stage for a new era in the Church while challenging long-standing beliefs and traditions.

The Confessions of Pope Joan is an intriguing blend of historical revelation, suspenseful mystery, and human resilience. It delves deep into the heart of the Catholic Church, unearthing secrets hidden for centuries. Through engaging characters, intertwined plotlines, and poignant insights, this novel offers readers an engrossing journey through a world where the past bleeds into the present, reshaping the future. With every turn of the page, The Confessions of Pope Joan forces readers to question the known and grapple with the unimagined, making it a must-read for fans of historical thrillers.

You can watch the book trailer here.

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review:

McAvoy does not shy away from controversial theological issues and he tackles a few big ones in this novel, including the role of women in the Roman Catholic Church, the tensions between newly discovered documents and traditional teaching and whether priests should be allowed to marry. He usually skirts the borders and circles around in the end but this time he goes all the way.

I appreciate his exploration of the attitude of women in leadership in the Roman Catholic Church specifically and Christianity in general. He clearly shows the attitude of many men that women have no place whatsoever in church leadership. That issue comes to light in the discovery of documents that challenge the traditional teaching of the Church.

There are a couple of aspects of this novel that did not seem to have the usual care McAvoy gives to his plot structure and development. The newly discovered documents are accepted as authentic at first sight and allowed to contradict centuries of authenticated manuscripts. That just would not happen in the actual realm of Christianity. Also, one of the documents challenges the Christian understanding of sin. Again, this teaching is accepted in the novel's world even though it contradicts previously authenticated and highly respected manuscripts long accepted by the Church. Centuries of teaching are overturned in a short amount of time, something that would not happen in the real Christian world.

McAvoy has not included the usual amount of suspense and intrigue I've come to expect from Father Michael and his cohorts. The plot moves quickly and everything seems to work out too easily with respect to identifying the villain and neutralizing him. It almost seems like the development of the plot was rushed and not completely fleshed out, so to speak.

I appreciate the thought provoking nature of McAvoy's writing. I really like his notes at the end, identifying the realms of historical fact and imaginative fiction. While the issues explored in this novel are brought to a resolution, we are left with the potential of another adventure for Father Michael and I'll be watching for it.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

You can read my reviews of the previous books in this series: The Vivaldi Cipher, The Opus Dictum, The Petrus Prophecy, The Avignon Affair, The Jerusalem Scrolls, The Galileo Gambit, and The Magdalene Chronicles: The Magdalene Deception, The Magdalene Reliquary and The Magdalene Veil.

About the Author:

Gary McAvoy began his writing career writing columns for a small town weekly newspaper and articles for a regional Southern California magazine. That laid the foundation for corporate communications work supporting his own and clients' businesses. He was fascinated with cryptology and intelligence during his U.S. Army tour in Germany. Following his military service, he built a number of successful ventures in Southern California and then moved to the Pacific Northwest. You can find out more about him and his books at

Literati Editions, 237 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

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