From a much-celebrated (now deceased) foreign correspondent who coauthored three novels (Powder Burn, etc.) with Carl Hiaasen comes this sexy, cunningly imagined thriller set inside the Vatican in the early years of the next century. Battle-scarred Paul Lorenzo is a hard-nosed ex-Miami cop, now a Roman Catholic friar and chief Vatican troubleshooter, who followed his inseparable pal Pope Tredi (short for ""Tredicesimo,"" as in Pius XIII) to Rome when he became pontiff. Paul is called upon to find out who pushed a Vatican priest to his death from a catwalk high in the dome of St. Peter's Basilica. The trail leads him to an underground conspiracy aimed at subverting Tredi's dogma-shattering reforms. As other figures close to the papal throne are slain, however, the crimes seem somehow wedded to the old days in Miami, when Tredi--then known by the media as the Cocaine Cardinal--was the scourge of the Colombian drug cartel. During a major Caribbean drug bust, Tredi covertly ""liberated,"" for charitable purposes, a bag containing more than a million in ill-gotten cash. Spiced with libidinous women and assorted carnally indulgent clergy, jam-packed with brassy papal antics and hot Latino blood feuds, Montalbano's work is shrewdly calculated to enthrall to the final mea culpa. 75,000 first printing; $75,000 ad/promo. (Jan.) FYI: Montalbano died in March 1998, at age 57.