by Jerrilyn Farmer
Series: Madeline Bean #2
Publication Date: April 30, 1999
Publisher: Avon Books
The Pope is coming to breakfast, and Madeline Bean's got frittatas on the skillet. What a coup for gourmet caterer Mad Bean and her company, the event-planning wizards, chosen to mastermind L.A.'s official welcoming extravaganza. Pulling off the early morning meal for His Holiness, and two thousand high profile bigwigs, sounds like great fun for the unflappable Ms. Bean.
But things quickly go from serene to sinister when a young priest turns up dead in the bed of an uninhibited Hollywood star, and a yellowed page of Latin scrawl, found tucked in an old book of mouthwatering Church recipes, reveals a mysterious Jesuit Brother's shocking past. Even the course of Madeline's ragged love life gets a jolt as charming Xavier Jones, the man who left her at the alter ten years ago, reappears and still won't explain why he bugged out. With the Pope arriving any day, it's up to Madeline to sort out this unholy mess of burnt brioche, tantalizing treasure, pesky naked starlets, and homicidal caterers-or a party that should go down in history could be history before it even begins.
I read this book when it first came out over 20 years ago, and I loved it. I’ve re-read it since a couple of times, but never after I started writing my thoughts down, so I picked it up again this week and I have to say it ages perfectly. Farmer was a talented writer who wrote great mysteries and very real characters you’d be happy to call friends.
Immaculate Reception is the re-imagining of the very real happenings of the Catholic church in the 1930’s, specifically a document called Humani generis unitas (On the Unity of the Human Race). This document was a draft for an encyclical planned by Pope Pius XI before his death on February 10, 1939. It condemned antisemitism, racism and the persecution of Jews. Because it was never issued, it is sometimes referred to as “The Hidden Encyclical” or “The Lost Encyclical.” Farmer also ties some Nazi stolen treasure stories into the mix for a breathtaking ending. This might all sound over the top and Indiana Jones, but it’s definitely not. But it’s a great story that can leave invested readers questioning the line between heroism and villainism. It’s also – in between all that – a fun, lighthearted book.