The Third Secret

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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.



"The links to religion in The Da Vinci Code and (Dan Brown's) previous, Angels and Demons, pale beside those in The Third Secret. Here's a lurid, churning thriller that centers on the election of a new pope . . . featuring ruthless behind-the-scenes ambition in Vatican City, and apparitions of the Virgin Mary. . . . Berry raises this genre's stakes . . . "
— New York Times


"Da Vinci Code fans willflock to this story . . . An excellent, tightly plotted thriller."
— Roanoake Times


"Rich in a wealth of Vatican insider knowledge and 2000 years of Virgin Mary visitations: Controversial, shocking, explosive! Steve Berry's The Third Secret will change our view of the relation between religion and wisdom. A must read."
— Katherine Neville, bestselling author of The Eight


"The Third Secret seamlessly weaves history and fiction. The meticulous research . . . drives Berry's writing a notch higher. He has crafted an intense, fast-paced thriller that succeeds because of clever plotting and introspective characters . . . a compelling read, a thinking man's thriller that proves as informative as entertaining. The Third Secret seems poised to become the next word-of-mouth bestseller."
— Florida Times-Union


"Perfectly conceived and executed thriller by a new master of the genre. This is a spectacular novel, rich with historical detail, and a hypothesis for the future of the Roman Catholic Church that is staggering. . . . What Berry has done . . . is to take an historical mystery, lay out all the known facts, and then wrap the whole intriguing thing in one of his remarkable theories. . . . For sheer entertainment, it just doesn't get any better than this. The Third Secret is out of this world."
— The Kingston Observer


"Berry . . . serves tantalizingly true tidbits about the Church, and his measured, elegant prose is a solid fit with the story."
— Kirkus Reviews


"A a gripping novel set in Vatican City . . . This blend of thriller and historical fiction provides a captivating examination of history through an archaeological perspective.”
— NewsBytes (India)


"If you want a good story, this book offers one."
— Wisconsin State Journal


"Conspiracies and plots abound . . . Berry handles his thriller tradecraft skillfully, his descriptions are stellar, and of special interest, he offers a vivid re-creation of the majestic conclave, in which the College of Cardinals elects a new pope. . . . the story is its own reward . . . and the surprising ending keeps the tension intense until the last pages. Readers won't be disappointed."
— Booklist


"The Third Secret is poised to be the breakout thriller this summer, a brilliant and provocative novel of international suspense and Vatican intrigue."
— The Clarion-Ledger (Jackson, Mississippi)


"Fast-paced thriller."
— Sacramento Bee


"Visions of the Virgin Mary, secret documents and politicking in the highest echelons of the Catholic Church-Berry combines combustive elements in this well-researched thriller."
— Publishers Weekly


"Da Vinci Code fans hungry for more may want a taste of this."
— The Daily Star (London)


"The Third Secret skillfully combines Vatican insights, old-fashioned thrills, intrigue, murder, ambition and retribution."
— Orlando Sentinel


"Berry builds on meticulous research to spin a web of intrigue in which the fate of the entire Church is at stake."
— Arizona Republic


"The Da Vinci Code: Move over and make room for this thriller steeped in Vatican secrets."
— St. Petersburg Times


"Perfect for the car, or the plane, the balcony or the beach. . . Nothing is ever simple in a Berry novel. He takes his research seriously and uses every tidbit he uncovers to infuse his novels with a reality borne of finely tuned political and international suspense. You cannot go wrong."
— Jackson Free Press


"(A) stunning new novel . . . The Third Secret is a gripping page-turner with a fascinating plot, and has bestseller written all over it. It should also come with a warning label, 'Do not start this book late at night; lack of sleep will occur."
— Times Record News (Witchita Falls, Texas)


"Steve Berry presents readers with a complex and charismatic hero. . . . Berry does an excellent job of keeping the pacing fast and his crisp, detailed descriptions of everything from the Italian countryside to the beauties of the Vatican are mesmerizing. Fans of Dan Brown will enjoy The Third Secret immensely."


"The Third Secret is an entertaining mix of historical fact, fast-paced action, some compelling characters--Vatican City is itself a character--and controversial religious subjects. Reminiscent of The Da Vinici Code, it's a satisfying summer pager-turner."
— Memphis Commercial-Appeal


"Shocking, explosive and full of unexpected twists and turns. The Da Vinci Code fans will feast on this well-researched tale."
— Tucson Citizen


"The breathtaking endgame and the Marian revelations are too explosive to even hint at. Suffice it to say that the fast-paced action in this lollapalooza of clerical intrigue comes to an unimaginable climax, with faith in God restored to doubters, and justice doled out to those deserving of it, and, alas, certain secrets maintained."
— Toledo Blade


"Berry enriches The Third Secret with glimpses behind the locked doors of a papal selection process and knowledge of centuries-old Catholic prognostications . . . The Third Secret builds to a conclusion that is as suspenseful and stunning, as it is inevitable. Have faith."


"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."


"If you've not already discovered Steve Berry through The Amber Room and The Romanov Prophecy, then you're two behind. Catch up quickly and (read) The Third Secret . . .a spellbinding mystery."
— Square Books, Oxford, Mississippi




"Explosive in both its pace and its revelations, The Third Secret is a remarkable international thriller."


"Steve Berry continues his string of entertaining thrillers based on historical facts . . . A fast-paced Vatican thriller."


"Is Berry's book controversial? Is it exciting? Is it fascinating? Is it surprising? You will not want to miss reading The Third Secret, and you will then know that "Yes!" answers each of these questions."


". . . a standout amongst much of the current Da Vinci Code inspired novels."


"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. ....The book is a thriller through and through. It's got good pacing, easily identifiable stock characters, and a tight plot. ... I'd recommend it to anyone looking for some fast-paced, light reading."
— WillyMammoth on


"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!!"
— jsoos on


"Religion has always been a sensitive topic to write about and the way this book was written was vivid, excellent, and informative. I also liked the writer's note where he discusses his research and separates fact and fiction. Characters are human, popes are not perfect, the suspense is always there and the danger is ever-present. All of them have redeeming value, clues about events are there and the part I liked best is I wasn't able to predict what happens next. Great read!"
— yurioujo on


"While I have enjoyed all of Steve Berry's novels weaving history, mystery, and chases, this is my favorite. It may be reminiscent for some of Dan Brown's Angels & Demons, but I think this is a better book. The plotting is superb and easy to follow, the characterization is solid, and the descriptions of the locales are excellent. Berry is always at his best when evoking a sense of history, and this book does not disappoint in that regard. While reading it I could see it in my mind's eye. I heartily recommend this book to any who enjoy the genre. If you're like me, you don't have a lot of time to read. This novel is an excellent expenditure of your precious time."
— Sharon Barker on


"The Third Secret, a stand-alone book, is part fiction and part fact, but even more so...this one contains a wealth of reality. I have thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and have come to rely on Berry's books for the two Es, "education and entertainment." .... sit back, put your feet up and enjoy this bestseller from a highly knowledgeable author."





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.