Conclave by Robert HarrisConclave by Robert Harris


byRobert Harris

Paperback | November 1, 2016

Pricing and Purchase Info

$22.99 online 
$24.95 list price save 7%
Earn 115 plum® points

Prices and offers may vary in store


In stock online

Ships free on orders over $25

Available in stores


The Pope is dead.

Behind the locked doors of the Sistine Chapel, one hundred and twenty Cardinals from all over the globe will cast their votes in the world’s most secretive election.

They are holy men. But they have ambition. And they have rivals.

Over the next seventy-two hours one of them will become the most powerful spiritual figure on earth.

ROBERT HARRIS is the author of nine best-selling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy. Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into thirty-seven lan...
Title:ConclaveFormat:PaperbackDimensions:304 pages, 9.3 × 6.4 × 0.8 inPublished:November 1, 2016Publisher:Random House of CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0735272646

ISBN - 13:9780735272644

Look for similar items by category:


Rated 5 out of 5 by from Buckle Up!!! An informative and insightful look at the process the Catholic Church uses in handing down the keys of St. Peter to his successors. One quickly becomes engaged in the intrigues and the politics and empathetic to the central characters. The author, in his 'Acknowledgement' to a number of un-named prominent Catholics, says "I hope they are not too appalled by the result." To those who might be appalled - remember, it is a work of fiction! "Conclave" also happens to be highly entertaining, thought-provoking and well worth the read.
Date published: 2018-03-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from House of Cards for the Papacy If you like the scheming, twists and turns and the intrigue of House of Cards, then this would be a good book for you. The pope is dead and a new one must be elected. But ambition, pride and God all have something to say about just who the next Pope will be. Harris knows how to put you in the Vatican City thanks to his detailed writing and lets the story unfold with plenty of reveals and twists.
Date published: 2017-07-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fabulous book. I could not put it down. Although I have enjoyed most of Robert Harris' books, this one is the best.
Date published: 2017-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great read This was an intriguing look at the conclave process that gives insights into what may happen during the papal election. I read the book in one sitting - it was an easy and engaging read that I didn't want to put down! I would highly recommend it!
Date published: 2017-01-01
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Great book! Wow, what a ride! Great book. Well crafted, well written. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Can't really say much more for fear of spoilers. But I can highly recommend it!
Date published: 2016-12-29

Read from the Book

1 Sede vacante  Cardinal Lomeli left his apartment in the Palace of the Holy Office shortly before two in the morning and hurried through the darkened cloisters of the Vatican towards the bedroom of the Pope.He was praying. O Lord, he still has so much to do, whereas all my useful work in Your service is completed. He is beloved, while I am forgotten. Spare him, Lord. Spare him. Take me instead.He toiled up the cobbled slope towards the Piazza Santa Marta. The Roman air was soft and misty yet already he could detect in it the first faint chill of autumn. It was raining slightly. The Prefect of the Papal Household had sounded so panicked on the telephone, Lomeli was expecting to be met by a scene of pandemonium. In fact, the piazza was unusually quiet, apart from a solitary ambulance parked a discreet distance away, silhouetted against the floodlit southern flank of St Peter’s. Its interior light was on, the windscreen wipers scudding back and forth, close enough for him to be able to make out the faces of both the driver and his assistant. The driver was using a mobile phone, and Lomeli thought with a shock: they haven’t come to take a sick man to the hospital, they’ve come to take away a body.At the plate glass entrance to the Casa Santa Marta, the Swiss guard saluted, a white-gloved hand to a red-plumed helmet. ‘Your Eminence.’Lomeli, nodding towards the car, said, ‘Will you please make sure that man isn’t calling the media?’The hostel had an austere, antiseptic atmosphere, like a private clinic. In the white marbled lobby, a dozen priests, three in dressing gowns, stood around in bewilderment, as if a fire alarm had sounded and they were unsure of the correct procedure. Lomeli hesitated on the threshold, felt something in his left hand and saw that he was clutching his red zucchetto. He couldn’t remember picking it up. He unfolded it and placed it on his head. His hair was damp to the touch. A bishop, an African, tried to intercept him as he walked towards the elevator but Lomeli merely nodded in his direction and moved on.The car took an age to come. He ought to have used the stairs. But he was too short of breath. He sensed the others looking at his back. He should say something. The elevator arrived. The doors slid open. He turned and raised his hand in benediction.‘Pray,’ he said.He pressed the button for the second floor; the doors closed and he began to ascend. If it is Your will to call him to Your presence and leave me behind, then grant me the strength to be a rock for others. In the mirror, beneath the yellow light, his cadaverous face was grey and mottled. He yearned for a sign, for some infusion of strength. The elevator lurched to an abrupt halt but his stomach seemed to go on rising and he had to grip the metal handrail to steady himself. He remembered riding with the Holy Father in this very car early in his papacy when two elderly monsignors had got in. Immediately they had fallen to their knees, stunned to find themselves face to face with Christ’s representative on Earth, at which the Pope had laughed and said, ‘Don’t worry, get up, I’m just an old sinner, no better than you…’The cardinal raised his chin. His public mask. The doors opened. A thick curtain of dark suits parted to let him through. He heard one agent whisper into his sleeve, ‘The Dean is here.’Diagonally across the landing, outside the papal suite, three nuns, members of the Company of Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul, were holding hands and crying. Archbishop Woźniak, Prefect of the Papal Household, came forward to meet him. Behind his steel-rimmed glasses his watery grey eyes were puffy. He lifted his hands and said helplessly, ‘Eminence…’Lomeli took the archbishop’s cheeks in his hands and pressed gently. He could feel the younger man’s stubble. ‘Janusz, your presence made him so happy.’Then another bodyguard – or perhaps it was an undertaker: both professions dressed so alike – at any rate, another figure in black opened the door to the suite. The little sitting room and the even smaller bedroom beyond it were crowded. Afterwards Lomeli made a list and came up with more than a dozen names of people present, not counting security – two doctors, two private secretaries, the Master of Papal Liturgical Celebrations, whose name was Archbishop Mandorff, at least four priests from the Apostolic Camera, Woźniak, and of course the four senior cardinals of the Catholic Church: the Secretary of State, Aldo Bellini; the Camerlengo – or chamberlain – of the Holy See, Joseph Tremblay; the Cardinal Major Penitentiary, or confessor-in-chief, Joshua Adeyemi; and himself, as Dean of the College of Cardinals. In his vanity he had imagined himself the first to be summoned; in fact, he now saw, he was the last.He followed Woźniak into the bedroom. It was the first time he had seen inside it. Always before the big double doors had been shut. The Renaissance papal bed, a crucifix above it, faced into the sitting room. It took up almost all the space – square, heavy polished oak – far too big for the room. It provided the only touch of grandeur. Bellini and Tremblay were on their knees beside it with their heads bowed. He had to step over the backs of their legs to get round to the pillows where the Pope lay slightly propped up, his body concealed by the white counterpane, his hands folded on his chest above his plain iron pectoral cross.Lomeli was not used to seeing him without his spectacles. These lay folded on the nightstand beside a scuffed travel alarm clock. The frames had left red pinch-marks on either side of the bridge of his nose. Often the faces of the dead, in Lomeli’s experience, were slack and stupid. But this one seemed alert, almost amused, as if interrupted in mid-sentence. As he bent to kiss the forehead he noticed a faint smudge of white toothpaste at the left corner of the mouth, and caught the smell of peppermint and the hint of some floral shampoo. ‘Why did He summon you when there was still so much you wanted to do?’ he whispered. ‘Subvenite, Sancti Dei…’ Adeyemi began intoning the liturgy. Lomeli realised they had been waiting for him. He lowered himself carefully to his knees on the brightly polished parquet floor, cupped his hands together in prayer and rested them on the side of the counterpane. He burrowed his face into his palms. ‘…occurrite, Angeli Domini…’ Come to his aid, Saints of God; race to meet him, Angels of the Lord…’  The Nigerian cardinal’s basso profundo reverberated around the tiny room. ‘…Suscipientes animam eius. Offerentes eam in conspectu Altissimi…’ Receive his soul and present it in the presence of the Most High…The words buzzed in Lomeli’s head without meaning. It was happening more and more often. I cry out to You, God, but You do not answer. Some kind of spiritual insomnia, a kind of noisy interference, had crept over him during the past year, denying him that communion with the Holy Spirit he had once been able to achieve quite naturally. And, as with sleep, the more one desired meaningful prayer, the more elusive it became. He had confessed his crisis to the Pope at their final meeting – had asked permission to leave Rome, to give up his duties as Dean and retreat to a religious order. He was seventy-five, retirement age. But the Holy Father had been unexpectedly hard on him. ‘Some are chosen to be shepherds, and others are needed to manage the farm. Yours is not a pastoral role. You are not a shepherd. You are a manager. Do you think it’s easy for me? I need you here. Don’t worry. God will return to you. He always does.’ Lomeli was hurt – a manager, is that how he sees me? – and there had been a coldness between them when they parted. That was the last time he saw him. ‘…Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine: et lux perpetua luceat ei…’ Eternal rest grant unto him, Lord: And let perpetual light shine upon him…When the Liturgy had been recited, the four cardinals remained around the deathbed in silent prayer. After a couple of minutes Lomeli turned his head a fraction and half-opened his eyes. Behind them in the sitting room, everyone was on their knees with their heads bowed. He pressed his face back into his hands.It saddened him to think that their long association should have ended on such a note. He tried to remember when it had happened. Two weeks ago? No, a month – 17 September, to be exact, after the Mass to commemorate the Impression of the Stigmata upon Saint Francis – the longest period he had gone without a private audience since the Pope had been elected. Perhaps the Holy Father had already started to sense that death was close and that his mission would not be completed; perhaps that accounted for his uncharacteristic irritation?The room was utterly still. He wondered who would be the first to break the meditation. He guessed it would be Tremblay. The French Canadian was always in a hurry, a typical North American. And, indeed, after a few more moments, Tremblay sighed – a long, theatrical, almost ecstatic exhalation. ‘He is with God,’ he said, and stretched out his arms. Lomeli thought he was about to deliver a blessing, but instead the gesture was a signal to two of his assistants from the Apostolic Camera, who entered the bedroom and helped him stand. One carried a silver box.‘Archbishop Woźniak,’ said Tremblay, as everyone started getting to their feet, ‘would you be so kind as to bring me the Holy Father’s ring?’Lomeli rose on knees that creaked after seven decades of constant genuflection. He pressed himself against the wall to allow the Prefect of the Papal Household to edge past. The ring did not come off easily. Poor Woźniak, sweating with embarrassment, had to work it back and forth over the knuckle. But eventually it came free and he carried it on his outstretched palm to Tremblay, who took a pair of shears from the silver box – the sort of tool one might use to dead-head roses, thought Lomeli – and inserted the seal of the ring between the blades. He squeezed hard, grimacing with the effort. There was a sudden snap and the metal disc depicting St Peter hauling in a fisherman’s net was severed. ‘Sede vacante,’ Tremblay announced. ‘The throne of the Holy See is vacant.’

Editorial Reviews

Shortlisted for the 2017 British Book Awards: Crime and Thriller Book of the YearA GLOBE AND MAIL BEST BOOK “Conclave is one of the best crime novels of 2016. In fact, it may be one of the best novels of 2016. There are thrills, devious plots, brilliant characters, a perfect setting and Harris’s usual skillfully rendered historical research. If you liked the Cicero trilogy, or were transfixed by The Ghost or An Officer and a Spy, you do not want to miss one line of this novel. . . . I read this book in one long day, taking time only to eat a sandwich. It is the best Robert Harris novel to date.” —Margaret Cannon, The Globe and Mail“A must for any lover of political fiction, Conclave offers a fascinating glimpse into the inner workings of the Catholic Church’s most critical election.” —Canadian Living“[A] triumphant Vatican showdown. . . . [T]here is only one possible word to describe Robert Harris’s new novel, and it is this: unputdownable. . . . Conclave doggedly sets out to provide readers with the fundamental satisfactions of story: of sequence, configuration and organisation.” —Ian Sansom, The Guardian  “[S]plendid. . . . Harris does not disappoint. . . . Regardless of whether you have faith in God, the Church, or neither, Conclave will keep you richly entertained.” —The Washington Post“[O]ne of [Harris’s] most intelligent and socially relevant novels to date.” —Book Reporter“It is a fascinating study in the difficulties that even religious leaders find in trying to the determine the right rather than the obvious thing to do.” —Daily Mail“Another page-turner from Harris, this one rich in Catholic history and ritual.” —The Age (Australia)“Throughout the novel, Harris teases us with taut, punchy, thrillerish sentences that set a scene, convey a mood, outline a position and hint at menace. . . . But just as the narrative refuses to take the form of a crime novel, it also defies thriller conventions. Instead what we have is a sharply focused, tightly controlled drama, if not big on adventure then certainly rich in intrigue. . . . Harris’s drama is made all the more intense by the confined space and claustrophobic limits of his locations. . . . [T]he novel eventually flares into life, triggering a series of unexpected sparks. . . . Lomeli proves to be an engaging creation. . . . Conclave boasts a sting in the tale as fiendish as the final twist in Harris’s 2007 thriller The Ghost. The rest of this fine novel is more subtle but just as masterfully executed.” —The Australian“[A] deft tale of Vatican intrigue. . . . A conclave of cardinals charged with choosing a new pope after the incumbent dies seems to fit [the classic English mystery novel] tradition nicely. . . . Conclave is full of craftsmanship. From the moment Cardinal Lomeli, the protagonist, leaves his Vatican apartment and crosses the Vatican to the dead pope’s bedroom, the reader feels in safe hands. This is Harris’s tenth novel . . . and he has mastered the hidden clockwork of suspense. He gives an initial nod to detective tradition in Lomeli’s discovery of holes in the timetable leading up to the pope’s death. . . . Like one of Graham Greene’s ‘entertainments,’ Conclave treats a serious topic with a deft touch.” —John Gapper, Financial Times“[Conclave is] a very fine novel, a worthy addition to the portfolio and pretty much a must-read for fans. . . . Harris details the archaic procedures of a conclave, replete with lovely little details. . . . Conclave has all the elements of great drama: power-plays, politicking, tension, errors, risk. So far, so West Wing or House of Cards. What raises the story above that is the setting. Even us irredeemable atheists can appreciate the sheer pomp and ceremony at the heart of a Papal election . . . the operatic grandeur of it all. . . . [T]horoughly enjoyable.” —Irish Independent“Harris, creator of grand, symphonic thrillers . . . scores with a chamber piece of a novel. . . . The novel glories in the ancient rituals that constitute the election process while still grounding that process in the real world. . . . An illuminating read for anyone interested in the inner workings of the Catholic Church; for prelate-fiction super-fans, it is pure temptation.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)“Conclave . . . is a gripping read. There are plenty of plot twists, revelations and high politicking to hook readers in. . . . Harris has done his research and the detail is fascinating, especially the ritual of the vote. . . . In the wrong hands the fruit of research or the respect for historical accuracy can slow down a story. . . . Conclave is admirably brisk—and its final twist is great fun.” —The Times“Despite papal fiction being such a crowded church, Harris, in Conclave, contrives a twist . . . that seems to me completely new, showing that the genre still has possibilities.” —The Guardian“Fast-written and suspenseful, it’s elegantly written entertainment from a first-rate storyteller.” —Mail on Sunday “Another high-class Harris thriller.” —Reader’s Digest “[B]rilliant. . . . Conclave . . . is a gripping read in the authentic Harris mould. . . . Conclave . . . is more than a crime novel, it is also a psychological and political thriller. . . . Another possible influence is Graham Greene, doyen of the Catholic adventure story. While not sharing Greene’s pessimism, Harris replicates his ability to get inside religious minds. . . . Harris has converted an arcane process into a page-turner. . . . The more one looks, the more cunning the book seems. Conclave is a triumphant addition to Harris’s acclaimed output.” —The Sunday Times“[T]he novel begins to grip like a vice and manages to convey all the drama of an election without resorting to melodrama. He pulls off the difficult trick of making his cardinals seem no less holy for all their human foibles and, although this ruminative and low-key novel is very different from Harris’s other books, it is well up to their standard.” —Sunday Express (four stars)“If thriller writers were furniture makers, Harris would be the Thomas Chippendale of today. This skilful novel about the election of a new Pope is as stylish and beautifully constructed as one of the master craftsman’s chairs. It is a sumptuous story. . . . Harris weaves the narrative of the rivalries among these Holy Men as intricately as in any locked-room crime mystery, without once losing his grip on the marvellous characters he has created. The author . . . casts a serpentine spell. . . . The fate of each ambitious cardinal delicately ebbs and flows during the story, each having their feet of clay subtly exposed until a final decision is reached—but even then there is a satisfying sting in the tail. One of his finest.” —Daily Mail“[A] rather brilliant ecclesiastical thriller. . . . [A] taut narrative . . . you can relish whether you’re a Vatican buff or someone completely unfamiliar with the church. We’re talking power and glory, dirty tricks and low ambition—it’s made for a thriller. . . . [T]he whole scenario has the contained space and tight time frame to make for mounting tension.” —London Evening Standard“Robert Harris’s new novel is a slick and fast-paced thriller. . . . The narrative begins at a breakneck speed and we have a ringside seat at the secretive meeting of the conclave. . . . One of the more entertaining aspects of Harris’s book is his blending of fiction with Vatican history which offers plenty of potential for arch comment. . . . [T]his entertaining and satisfying page-turner tells the tense story of the Machiavellian machinations of ambitious men, locked in a power-struggle that can only end in a puff of white smoke and power.” —Daily Express (four stars)