The Templar Conspiracy by Paul Christopher
At the start of Christopher’s cartoonish fourth Templar suspense novel (after The Templar Throne), a sniper assassinates the pope while the Holy Father is giving the Christmas blessing on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica. Before easily escaping, the killer also fatally shoots a cardinal, two bishops, and the Vatican’s official photographer. This outrage is merely the prologue to an even greater intended act of political violence, the murder of the U.S. president, who’s sure to attend the pontiff’s funeral. The president’s death will pave the way for the rise to power of right-wing Sen. Richard Sinclair, a story line used far more effectively by Richard Condon in The Manchurian Candidate. Standing in the way of the bad guys is the clichéd pairing of an older ex-soldier, John “Doc” Holliday, and his attractive younger female protégé, Peggy Blackstock, who respond to traumatic situations with banter out of one of the weaker James Bond movies.