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A Thief in the Night: Life and Death in the Vatican
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A Thief in the Night: Life and Death in the Vatican

3.88  ·  Rating details ·  172 ratings  ·  20 reviews
"A model of investigatory journalism and a small masterpiece of the genre."--Anthony Burgess

On the eve of September 28, 1978, John Paul I died unexpectedly--apparently of a heart attack--after a reign of only 33 days. But within the Vatican there were serious disagreements about the time of death, who found the body, and the true state of the Pope's health prior to his
Paperback, 368 pages
Published May 1st 2001 by Penguin Books (first published May 25th 1989)
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Nov 28, 2008 rated it really liked it
Popes have been assassinated on numerous occasions over the past 1990 years. The first to be poisoned was John VIII. He was also clubbed to death by members of his inner circle after they discovered the poison they had administered to the Pope wasn't working fast enough. Other Popes murdered include John X, Benedict VI, Boniface VII, Paul II, and Alexander VI. So it should come as no surprise, that in the land of "Foucault's Pendulum," conspiracy rumors surfaced immediately when Albino Luciani, ...more
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
In A Thief in the Night: The Mysterious Death of Pope John Paul I, John Cornwell recounts his investigation into the death of Pope John Paul I, who served as Pope for a mere 33 days in 1978. At the time of his death, contradictory reports led to rumors that the Pope had been murdered. At the urging of the Vatican, Cornwell attempts to set the record straight.

Cornwell recounts numerous interviews with those close to the Pope at the time of his death. Accounts contradict one another. Facts come in
Jun 07, 2013 rated it liked it
Pope John Paul I died suddenly after only 33 days as Pontiff in 1978. Details were murky, and rumors that he was murdered would not go away. The Vatican authorized Cornwell to conduct an investigation in the late 1980s in hopes of closure. The author does not find evidence of assassination but does have plenty of criticism of the Vatican. The book reads like a good mystery.
Aug 13, 2014 rated it liked it
Thorough exploration of theories and wild speculation about the death of Pope John Paul I. Goes deep into the Vatican bureaucracy, rich with gossip and jealousy and petty old men. A little dated, but very well constructed.
Feb 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested by religious conspiracies
Shelves: non-fiction
I loved this book. It's a true story about John Paul I and his mysterious death after only 33 days as Pope in 1978. It's a mystery/conspiracy involving the KGB, the Freemasons, crooked finaciers and Vatican officials. Completely engrossing!!! I would read it a second time!
Apr 03, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: church, christianity, pope
A fictionalised biography, but of the better kind. Very well written. The incident with John Paul I is but the occasion to explore and expose the Vatican mindset and that works fine too!
Phil Valentine
Jul 02, 2018 rated it liked it
I bought this book for research. The next 'Janus' book starts out with the death of Pope John Paul I. I was hoping this book could shed some light on the mysterious death of a pope who only served 33 days. There was a lot of heat but little light. I thought Cornwell was unnecessarily cruel in some of his descriptions of certain people involved. That may sound odd until you actually read the book. It's like he went out of his way to describe people in the worst possible manner which had nothing ...more
Kenneth Barber
Aug 20, 2018 rated it really liked it
Pope John Paul I was in office only 33 days before he died. Rumors abounded over his death. Rumors that he was poisoned were bandied about. The situation was made worse by the contradictory information released by the Vatican. Who found the body, the cause of death and the fact there was no autopsy all fueled the conspiracy theories. More fuel to the fire was the fact that the Vatican bank was weathering a scandal over some questionable investments. The head of the bank was a suspect in the ...more
Avis Gill
May 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Very interesting and thought provoking mystery on the death of Pope John Paul the First.
I think the Vatican could have been more helpful with the author, as he was asked to conduct an independent investigation by the Vatican itself. The cause of death, estimated time of death, the Dr. who signed the Death Certificate and why it wasn't allowed to be viewed along with the fact there was no autopsy performed, makes for an interesting read. The author did a good job in getting as much information as
Mar 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Pope John Paul I was only the Pope for 33 days before his sudden death on September 28th, 1978. 10 years after the event John Cornwell gets thrown into a reinvestigation of the events of that strange night. The book gives great insight deep into the Vatican and into the life of Fr. Albino Luciani leading up to and through the night of his death. We learn about the banking trouble the Vatican is tied to and all of the players involved. John manages to clarify virtually all of the fiction ...more
Pinko Palest
Jun 25, 2018 rated it it was ok
the official whitewash. Lots of interesting details, too many of them in places, and a very strong authorial presence, almost too strong at times, the book makes a half-hearted attempt to conceal it is a whitewash, but doesn't succeed. It was not bad, but a whitewash nevertheless and the strong authorial presence grates the nerves. In its favour, it gives a compelling picture of what the Vatican is like
Tom Shrimplin
Nov 16, 2017 rated it liked it
Interesting look inside the Vatican. I do not remember hearing about this death, so it was interesting to hear the various theories.
Jenny M
A good read by journalist Cornwell. He concludes that bureaucracy and indifference killed JPI.
3 and a half stars

Naughty naughty Vatican
Scott Wilson
May 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
I feel like this is two books in one and I really enjoyed both.

I believe the main story is a whodunit which include the possibility that nobody done it. Pope John Paul I dies under mysterious circumstances 33 days after becoming pope in 1978. Some of the details released immediately after his death lead to more questions than answers which only increases the perception that he may have been killed.

Was he killed, if so how was he killed and who did it?

The author was a reporter asked by the
Jan 13, 2016 rated it it was ok
Cornell writes of the circumstances surrounding the death of Pope John Paul I, who died on September 28, 1978 after reigning as the Pontiff for only thirty-three days. In question was: who found the body, when was the body found, what was the official cause of death and the time, what was the timing of the embalmment, what was the Pope holding when he died, what happened to some of his personal belongings, what was his health before his demise, was there a secret autopsy, and when were the ...more
Aug 09, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
It consists of many interviews to stake holders in and outside of Vatican, and the discrepancy between them are very interesting for readers. Although the conspiracy theory of Pope John Paul I is very exciting for mass media, I think at least the author succeeded to offer rebuttal evidences against David Yallop's book "In God's Name."
Jul 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The most concise and "probably" correct investigation of the death of John Paul I.
Reads quick like a novel and there are some real "charicters," but also full of history and background into the Holy See.
Stephen Boiko
Oct 01, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Paul I died scorned and neglected by the institution that existed to sustain him.
Feb 14, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well researched, unbiased investigation into the death of Pope John Paul I. No conspiracy, but tragedy all the same. It appears that being the Pope is a very lonely job.
Mark Rudolph
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Aug 18, 2015
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Dec 24, 2009
Darlene Ball
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Mar 19, 2015
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Dec 15, 2018
Anthony Bergen
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Dec 18, 2013
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Apr 01, 2016
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Jun 20, 2017
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Nov 26, 2013
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Mar 29, 2009
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Sep 01, 2019
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John Cornwell is a British journalist, author, and academic. Since 1990 he has directed the Science and Human Dimension Project at Jesus College, Cambridge, where he is also, since 2009, Founder and Director of the Rustat Conferences. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters (University of Leicester) in 2011. He was nominated for the ...more