Holy Smoke

The Vatican and the Mafia – why Italy can’t seem to shake off organised crime

35 min listen

The Sicilian Mafia is one of the most murderously amoral organisations on the planet – yet babyishly sentimental when it comes to Italian peasant Catholicism. And, like other branches of Italian organised crime, questions exist over whether they have allies in the Vatican, some of whose senior officials are as keen on money-laundering as the Mafia, only not so good at covering their traces. 

The relationship between the hitmen and the hierarchy casts an exotic shadow over a new series of thrillers by Alexander Lucie-Smith, the first of which, The Chemist of Catania, has just been published. To quote A.N. Wilson, Lucie-Smith’s plots are fast and his characters unforgettable. ‘Menace, suspense, lust, love and fear all enliven his narrative. I can see him becoming a real cult author.’ 

Some scenes describe acts of stomach-churning depravity. Others display a surprising degree of theological literacy – surprising, that is, if you don’t know that the author is a Catholic moral theologian and hard-working parish priest of Arundel and Brighton. I hope you enjoy our conversation and buy Father’s book. But be warned: page 95 is not for the faint-hearted. 


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