The Third Secret

The Third Secret

by Steve Berry

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BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Steve Berry’s The Columbus Affair.

Explosive in both its pace and its revelations, The Third Secret is a remarkable international thriller. Bestselling author Steve Berry tackles some of the most controversial ideas of our time in a breakneck journey through the history of the Church and the future of religion.

Fatima, Portugal, 1917: The Virgin Mary appears to three peasant children, sharing with them three secrets, two of which are soon revealed to the world. The third secret is sealed away in the Vatican, read only by popes, and not disclosed until the year 2000. When revealed, its quizzical tone and anticlimactic nature leave many faithful wondering if the Church has truly unveiled all of the Virgin Mary’s words–or if a message far more important has been left in the shadows.

Vatican City, present day: Papal secretary Father Colin Michener is concerned for the Pope. Night after restless night, Pope Clement XV enters the Vatican’s Riserva, the special archive open only to popes, where the Church’s most clandestine and controversial documents are stored. Though unsure of the details, Michener knows that the Pope’ s distress stems from the revelations of Fatima.

Equally concerned, but not out of any sense of compassion, is Alberto Cardinal Valendrea, the Vatican’s Secretary of State,. Valendrea desperately covets the papacy, having narrowly lost out to Clement at the last conclave. Now the Pope’s interest in Fatima threatens to uncover a shocking ancient truth that Valendrea has kept to himself for many years.

When Pope Clement sends Michener to the Romanian highlands, then to a Bosnian holy site, in search of a priest–possibly one of the last people on Earth who knows Mary’s true message– a perilous set of events unfolds. Michener finds himself embroiled in murder, suspicion, suicide, deceit, and his forbidden passion for a beloved woman. In a desperate search for answers, he travels to Pope Clement’s birthplace in Germany, where he learns that the third secret of Fatima may dictate the very fate of the Church–a fate now lying in Michener’s own hands.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780345484345
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/17/2005
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 35,622
File size: 1 MB

About the Author

Steve Berry is the New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author of The Lincoln Myth, The King’s Deception, The Columbus Affair, The Jefferson Key, The Emperor’s Tomb, The Paris Vendetta, The Charlemagne Pursuit, The Venetian Betrayal, The Alexandria Link, The Templar Legacy, The Third Secret, The Romanov Prophecy, and The Amber Room. His books have been translated into 40 languages with more than 18,000,000 copies in 51 countries.
History lies at the heart of every Steve Berry novel. It’s this passion, one he shares with his wife, Elizabeth, that led them to create History Matters, a foundation dedicated to historic preservation. Since 2009 Steve and Elizabeth have traveled across the country to save endangered historic treasures, raising money via lectures, receptions, galas, luncheons, dinners, and their popular writers’ workshops. To date, nearly 2,500 students have attended those workshops. In 2012 their work was recognized by the American Library Association, which named Steve the first spokesman for National Preservation Week. He was also appointed by the Smithsonian Board of Regents to serve on the Smithsonian Libraries Advisory Board to help promote and support the libraries in their mission to provide information in all forms to scientists, curators, scholars, students, and the public at large. He has received the Royden B. Davis Distinguished Author Award and the 2013 Writers for Writers Award from Poets & Writers. His novel The Columbus Affair earned him the Anne Frank Human Writes Award, and his historic preservation work merited the 2013 Silver Bullet from International Thriller Writers.
Steve Berry was born and raised in Georgia, graduating from the Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University. He was a trial lawyer for 30 years and held elective office for 14 of those years. He is a founding member of International Thriller Writers—a group of more than 2,600 thriller writers from around the world—and served three years as its co-president.
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Read an Excerpt

Vatican City
Wednesday, November 8th, The Present
6:15 a.m.

Monsignor Colin Michener heard the sound again and closed the book. Somebody was there. He knew it.

Like before.

He stood from the reading desk and stared around at the array of baroque shelves. The ancient bookcases towered above him and more stood at attention down narrow halls that spanned in both directions. The cavernous room carried an aura, a mystique bred in part by its label. L’ Archivio Segreto Vaticano. The Secret Archives of the Vatican.

He’d always thought that name strange since little contained within the volumes was secret. Most were merely the meticulous record of two millennia of Church organization, the accounts from a time when popes were kings, warriors, politicians, and lovers. All told there were twenty-five miles of shelves which offered much if a searcher knew where to look.

And Michener certainly did.

Re-focusing on the sound, his gaze drifted across the room, past frescos of Constantine, Pepin, and Frederick II, before settling on an iron grille at the far side. The space beyond the grille was dark and quiet. The Riserva was accessed only by direct papal authority, the key to the grille held by the Church’s archivist. Michener had never entered that chamber, though he’d stood dutifully outside while his boss, Pope Clement XV, ventured inside. Even so, he was aware of some of the precious documents that windowless space contained. The last letter of Mary, Queen of Scots, before she was beheaded by Elizabeth I. The petitions of seventy-five English lords asking the pope to annul Henry VIII’s first marriage. Galileo’s signed confession. Napoleon’s Treaty of Tolentino.

He studied the cresting and buttresses of the iron grille, a gilded frieze of foliage and animals hammered into the metal above. The gate itself had stood since the fourteenth century. Nothing in Vatican City was ordinary. Everything carried the distinctive mark of a renowned artist or a legendary craftsman, someone who’d labored for years trying to please both his God and his pope.

He strode across the room, his footfalls echoing through the tepid air, and stopped at the iron gate. A warm breeze swept past him from beyond the grille. The right side of the portal was dominated by a huge hasp. He tested the bolt. Locked and secure.

He turned back, wondering if one of the staff had entered the archives. The duty scriptor had departed when he’d arrived earlier and no one else would be allowed inside while he was there, since the papal secretary needed no babysitter. But there were a multitude of doors that led in and out, and he wondered if the noise he’d heard moments ago was that of ancient hinges being worked open, then gently closed. It was hard to tell. Sound within the great expanse was as confused as the writings.

He stepped to his right, toward one of the long corridors–the Hall of Parchments. Beyond was the Room of Inventories and Indexes. As he walked, overhead bulbs flashed on and off, casting a succession of light pools, and he felt as if he was underground, though he was two stories up.

He ventured only a little way, heard nothing, then turned around.

It was early in the day and mid-week. He’d chosen this time for his research deliberately–less chance of impeding others who’d gained access to the archives, and less chance of attracting the attention of Curial employees. He was on a mission for the Holy Father, his inquiries private, but he was not alone. The last time, a week ago, he’d sensed the same thing.

He re-entered the main hall and stepped back to the reading desk, his attention still on the room. The floor was a zodiacal diagram oriented to the sun, its rays able to penetrate thanks to carefully positioned slits high in the walls. He knew that centuries ago the Gregorian calendar had been calculated at this precise spot. Yet no sunlight leaked in today. Outside was cold and wet, a mid-autumn rainstorm pelting Rome.

The volumes that had held his attention for the past two hours were neatly arranged on the lectern. Many had been composed within the past two decades. Four were much older. Two of the oldest were written in Italian, one was in Spanish, the other in Portuguese. He could read all of them with ease–another reason Clement XV coveted his employment.

The Spanish and Italian accounts were of little value, both re-hashes of the Portuguese work: A Comprehensive and Detailed Study of the Reported Apparitions of the Holy Virgin Mary at Fatima—May 13, 1917 to October 13, 1917.

Pope Benedict XV had ordered the investigation in 1922 as part of the Church’s investigation into what supposedly had occurred in a remote Portuguese valley. The entire manuscript was handwritten, the ink faded to a warm yellow so the words appeared as if they were scripted in gold. The Bishop of Leira had performed a thorough inquiry, spending eight years in all, and the information later became critical in the 1930 acknowledgment by the Vatican that the Virgin’s six earthly appearances at Fatima were worthy of assent. Three appendices, now attached to the original, were generated in the 1950s, 60s, and 90s.

Michener had studied them all with the thoroughness of the lawyer he’d been trained by the Church to be. Seven years at the University of Munich had earned him his degrees, yet he’d never practiced law conventionally. His was a world of ecclesiastical pronouncements and canonical decrees. Precedent spanned two millennia and relied more on an understanding of the times than on any notion of stare decisis. His arduous legal training had become invaluable to his Church service, as the logic of the law had many times become an ally in the confusing mire of divine politics. More importantly, it had just helped him find in this labyrinth of forgotten information what Clement XV wanted.

The sound came again.

A soft squeak, like two limbs rubbing together in a breeze, or a mouse announcing its presence.

He rushed toward the source and glanced both ways.


Fifty feet off to the left, a door led out of the archive. He approached the portal and tested the lock. It yielded. He strained to open the heavy slab of carved oak and the iron hinges squealed ever so slightly.

A sound he recognized.

The hallway beyond was empty, but a gleam on the marble floor caught his attention.

He knelt.

The transparent clumps of moisture came with regularity, the droplets leading off into the corridor, then back through the doorway into the archive. Suspended within some were remnants of mud, leaves, and grass.

He followed the trail with his gaze which stopped at the end of a row of shelves. Rain continued to pound the roof.

He knew the puddles for what they were.


Reading Group Guide

1. How did your own religious beliefs influence the way you read The Third Secret? Can non-Catholics appreciate the novel?

2. Fatima is one of many sites around the world where people believe the Virgin Mary has appeared and imparted a message to humanity. Why do you think there have been, and continue to be, reports of visitations by the Virgin? Is it a spiritual phenomenon or a psychological one?

3. In the course of the novel, all the major characters wrestle with the question of faith. Some lose their faith; others find it anew. How would you define faith? How do Berry’s characters manifest this quality? Is it always a good thing to have faith?

4. What do you think about the message Mary gives to Michener–the “third secret” of the novel’s title? If it were truly the third secret of Fatima, would the church actively suppress it, as it does in the novel? What might the effect of its public revelation be on the church?

5. Given what you know about the church and the religious teachings of Jesus as contained in the New Testament, is Berry’s take on the Virgin’s third secret a plausible one? If not, do you believe the church has fully revealed the true secret? And why did it wait so long to release it?

6. Do you think the portrait Berry paints of a Vatican rife with intrigue is fair or accurate? Is he guilty of using stereotypes and prejudices about the Catholic Church and its leaders?

7. Does the Virgin Mary really appear to Michener, or is his vision a hallucination brought on by the injuries he suffered in the lightning strike? How might the meaning of the novel change depending on how readers answer this question?

8. Does the Catholic Church need to change in order to thrive in the future? Why is the church seen by so many as being averse to change? Is it an understandable position or something the church needs to improve?

9. Michener is a priest who has never served a parish, he has broken his vows of celibacy, doubts his own faith. Despite his position as papal secretary, he remains an innocent, out of his depth when it comes to the machinations of Cardinal Valendrea. Why do you suppose Berry made his hero such a flawed man?

10. Katerina Lew begins the novel as a self-centered opportunist with a habit of rationalizing her betrayals. Does she really change over the course of the novel, or is her talk of working side by side with Michener in the orphanage just the latest in a long line of self-deceptions?

11. Is Cardinal Valendrea acting for himself or for what he genuinely believes is the good of the church?

12. Imagine that a year has passed since the end of the novel. What effect has the revelation of the third secret had on the church? On the world? Are Michener and Katerina still together? What are they doing?

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Third Secret 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 182 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book held my attention from page one!! Seldom am I rivited to a book like I was to this one. You not only have a well developed set of characters but a mystery set of documents which blew my mind when revealed toward the end. I would recommend this book to anyone who loves a great story with many twists and turns.
craft9 More than 1 year ago
great read keeps you guessing all the time
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
If anyone feels let down by the secret revealed in this novel, you need to read Miriam's Garden and Miriam's Secret by Mary Reyna. These books are not like The DaVinci Code. They are very original and inspiring. The messages in these mysteries make so much sense.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
As usual Steve Berry has blown my mind. He always makes me think about the "what if". However, I was disappointed that it wasn't part of the Cotton Malone saga. I've read all his books, except one and I'm in the progress of doing that now. Can't wait for him to write another.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book proves that religion has become a business. You put any MAN in power of something as powerful as the catholic church ,You need to remember that he is nothing more than a man with power. This is a great book
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
indygo88 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I wasn't especially impressed with this one -- it felt forced and overly dramatic. Lots of writers have done similar storylines & have done it better. I had some trouble keeping the characters straight & the storyline seemed disjointed at times, but that may have been attributable to this being the abridged audio version.
booknutzz on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another good read from Steve Berry.
hamiltonpam on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the suspense of this book
WillyMammoth on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Steve Berry's "The Third Secret" is a conspiracy thriller in the same vein as the Da Vinci Code. It centers around the Catholic Church and an alleged cover up of secrets revealed in various Marian visions throughout history. The protagonist is Father Colin Michener, secretary to the fictional Pope Clement XV. He is tasked with much of the legwork in uncovering the truth of the Marian aparitions and unveiling the truth to the world, all while trying to elude powerful members of the Church's dead set on keeping the secret just that--a secret.It's plain that a lot of research went into this book, because it is rich with details of Rome, the Vatican, and Church traditions. The depth of detail makes the book quite enjoyable. And let's face it, the more authentic detail included, the more credible the rest of the bullcrap conspiracy theories seem. The book is a thriller through and through. It's got good pacing, easily identifiable stock characters, and a tight plot. It throws out some interesting questions about religion and the nature of dogma, but in content it's nothing all that new--just another conspiracy thriller riding the Da Vinci Code's coat tails. But it's still a good read. I'd recommend it to anyone looking for some fast-paced, light reading with a Catholic bent.
Jarratt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿The Third Secret¿ is the second Steve Berry book I listened to recently and enjoyed it as much as the first (¿The Romanov Prophesy¿). This one deals with the Catholic Church and the Marian apparitions in Fatima, Portugal in 1917. A third secret is revealed, but popes for years kept it under wraps until 2000. But its message still isn¿t clear. In the book, the current pope, Clement XV, comes to discover what it really means. But Secretary of State Alberto Cardinal Valendrea, who wants to be pope, also knows what the third secret says¿and he wants to keep it a secret. In the middle of it all is Papal secretary Father Colin Michener, a close friend and son-like figure to the Pope. The battle between Pope Clement, Cardinal Valendrea, Michener, and the Virgin Mary¿s words makes for an interesting, fast-paced, thoughtful historical novel.I really only have two complaints about the book. One is that the third secret is teased in front of the reader so often it gets a little old. Sure, its revelation is pretty much the point of the book, but we frequently get so close to hearing its content before Berry snatches it away, its starts to get frustrating. In contrast, I¿m reminded of how relatively early on in ¿The DaVinci Code¿ we hear of the big secret. The other complaint is some of the content of the third secret, once we finally do hear it. I¿m not Catholic, nor of course will I reveal the secret here. But, I do take issue with one of the revelations. If you¿ve read it and want to discuss it with me, feel free.I will return to Berry soon as I enjoy his work a great deal.
adithyajones on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
an excellent thriller which brings forth the political manipulations that go on in the selection of Pope at Vatican told in an engaging way.An entertaining and also an informative read.
jsoos on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A great read. Berry puts us in the middle of a huge religious controversy simultaneously with the selection of a new pope. Lots of intrigue and mystery along with some pretty good details relative to the Vatican and papal affairs. He really keep us involved waiting for the big relevation - which is a biggie!!
Talbin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Third Secret is another good mystery/thriller from Steve Berry. Father Colin Michener, the secretary to the Pope, finds himself embroiled in a mystery surrounding various Marian revelations and secrets. Michener is sent by the Pope to search for the truth behind the third secret of Fatima, a revelation that happened in Portugal in the early 20th century. Along the way, Michener finds himself re-involved Katerina Lew, a woman with whom he had an affair many years ago. As he tries to find answers regarding the revelations, Michener also struggles with ideas about where love and passion fit into his faith.Berry has created an interesting story with a good plot that keeps the reader involved. However, Berry does not do a good job of drawing a character, although he does better in The Third Secret than he has in previous books. I also found myself disappointed when the third secret is finally revealed close to the end of the book; it's a bit too "21st century" for my taste (and I'm not even Catholic). Overall, though, this is an entertaining read.
harpua on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book deals with secrets surpressed by a corrupt Catholic church that threaten to change the face of Christianity and especially the face of the Catholic church. While a good read, some of the ideas presented are fairly unbelievable. However, with a suspension of belief and within the context of this book, they make sense and add to the story. A simple quick read and I think a good introduction into the world of political/religious intrigue novels. Recommend this one.
-Cee- on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A tame thriller (is that an oxymoron?) set in the Vatican involving mysteries and secrets of related historic apparitions predicting the future. I actually enjoyed this mix of truth (?) and fiction. Having been raised Catholic, it's fun to read a humanistic account of intense church teachings and the portrayal of the not-so-perfect heirarchy.Good light reading with a great ending. I imagine there are Catholics out there shuddering that I would treat this so lightly. But then I have long ago rejected the church teachings that are so obviously man-made and which serve the greed and vanity of the powerful. Several current themes with which the church is struggling are tackled in this book.
CarlaR on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I probably could have recommended this book until I read the end. Berry uses this book as an indictment of the Catholic church and their policies. Berry does a better job of writing than Dan Brown does, and he does his homework. I just wish that he would stick to historical (non religious) topics and not the church. I enjoyed the Romanov Prophesy more..
MSWallack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Somehow, this story just took too long to really take off and, once it did, it was over too quickly. Not nearly as much action as in Berry's prior books.
Alera on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ok, I am a sucker for anything written by Steve Berry. Playing with the myths and hidden things of history and turning it into a twisting turning story...shall always make me love you. Admittedly...knowing how much they are the 'it' thing right now I've limited myself to well Dan Brown obviously...and Steve. He wrote about the Romanovs...The Amber Room....I loved and adored it all. He has one on the Templar's which I am a sucker for... and now the third secret at Fatima. Really....I love everything by him. So...if you like that kind of stuff...and you haven't read anything by him...*hits people over the head* DO IT!
bcquinnsmom on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Here's the deal: if you hated the DaVinci Code for its content, you'll probably really hate this one. Me, I know it's fiction (like the DaVinci Code), so the content didn't really bother me. But I think I was a wee bit disappointed in the story; I guess I expected something a little more earth-shattering as far as a revelation at the end. I was hoping for something a little more explosive, I suppose. Oh well. I saw this book reviewed on Amazon by one customer as "an insult to all Christians..." I mean, get real! Read the blurb in the dust jacket then decide if you want to read it or not. It's FICTION, okay??? If you're easily insulted, don't read it!Having said this, let me try a brief synopsis:The "Third Secret" is the last of the secrets entrusted by the Virgin Mary to three children back in 1917 in Fatima, Portugal. Personally, I'm fascinated by the whole phenomenon of Virgin Mary tortillas, in a grilled cheese sandwich, on windows, in blotches on the street. But then again, I have always been interested in goddess literature and studies relating the Virgin Mary to vestiges of goddess worship. Moving right along, there were 3 messages in total given to these children. Berry examines the notion that the third of these, made public by John Paul II in 2000, was not the actual message...that there was a plot to cover up its real contents because it would shake the faith of the modern Catholic world. The girl, Lucia, who received that message, was in her 90s at the time this secret was made public and according to Berry's novel, her hearing was failing, her eyesight bad, and she had been sworn to secrecy, yet she confirmed that the message made public by the pope was the one given to her by the Virgin Mary. In Berry's novel, he notes that these documents were contained under lock and key in the Riserva, the private archives so secret that only the Pope could go in there and have access to the documents stored there. In the story, a number of popes knew the true secret, and in the case of John XXIII, he wept while reading it. As the novel opens, we are in the reign of Pope Clement XV, a German pope who knows the secret and is troubled by it. He has been on the papal throne for 34 months and he is torn because he knows he should let the world know, but also knows that he would be tearing the Catholic world apart once he reveals the secret. He sends a friend Colin Michener, a priest at the Vatican, to Romania to contact a Father Tibor, currently working in an orphanage there. Father Tibor, it seems, was the translator of the Third Secret, and Clement wants advice as to what he should do. Clement does not entrust the secret to Michener, but sends him on the mission. Now this wouldn't be so complicated, except for the fact that at the same time, the cardinal who did not become the pope in the conclave where Clement was elected, Valendrea, can't wait to become pope and is already exercising his power over those who would support him in the event of the death of Clement. He is one of the nastiest villains I've seen in a long time and I really enjoyed his character. Anyway, he knows something about the third secret and sends his goons and a reporter that Michener was once in love with after Michener to keep track of what he learns in Romania. As Michener learns more, things begin to heat up at the Vatican and the suspense sets in up until the last minute of the book.If you like books about religious conspiracies, startling revelations & really evil people, you'll like this one. I thought the book was okay; made for an interesting two days and one night of reading. The pace is good, and the book is suspenseful, but to me, I just wasn't wowed by the revelations at the end. I had the most fun with Valendrea's character...what an evil genius!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A good read for anyone, but maybe even better for Catholics.
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