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Centered on the final days of Pope John Paul II, Read's uneven thriller will appeal mainly to those interested in Catholic theology. British journalist Kate Ramsey, who's covering the Old Bailey trial of three men accused by MI6 of plotting a sarin attack, is drawn to one of the defendants, Juan Uriarte, who testifies that he was seeking the poison gas to use as a deterrent against warlords in the Sudan, where he works for the Catholic Refugee Service. After the trial ends in acquittal, Ramsey gets herself assigned to cover Uriarte's relief work in Africa. Rather implausibly, Ramsey agrees to Uriarte's request that she transport on a plane flight a thermos that he claims contains a Nag Hammadi scroll. Meanwhile, British intelligence believes a megaterror event is in the works, and as John Paul II nears death, villains scheme to rig the succession. Read remains best known for Alive(1974), his nonfiction account of Andes air crash survivors who resort to cannibalism. (May)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.