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The Quest    by Nelson deMille order for
by Nelson deMille
Order:  USA  Can
Center Street, 2013 (2013)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Here's something different from Nelson deMille, author of Up Country, The Lion's Game, and a long list of other very entertaining thrillers. The Quest is more along the lines popularized by Dan Brown's recent works (an earlier, shorter version was actually published in paperback in 1975). The action moves back and forth between the Ethiopian jungles and the libraries and eateries of Rome, as the love triangle amongst the three leads also switches focus.

A quest. For what you ask? It's the original quest that consumed the knights of the Round Table (and The Da Vinci Code protagonists), the search for the Holy Grail. An Author's Note at the beginning explains what drew DeMille to write about Ethiopia, 'an ancient isolated, almost biblical civilization that was being dragged bloodily into the twentieth century.'

As the story begins, an old Italian priest is miraculously released from a lifetime of captivity in Ethiopia by mortar fire. He makes his way to the ruins of an Italian mineral bath spa (built during the Italian occupation). There he's found by Western reporters Frank Purcell and Henry Mercado and lovely freelance photographer Vivian Smith. Dying, the priest recounts how he was enlisted by the Vatican in 1935 to accompany the Italian army to Ethiopia. Deep in the jungle he found a black monastery - and the well guarded sacred relic.

Shortly after they bury Father Armano, the trio come upon an Ethiopian Royal and his British advisor, Colonel Gann. They and the Colonel are captured by sadistic General Getachu, a leader of the revolutionary forces. Expecting to die in the morning, Vivian and Frank sleep together, despite her prior relationship with Henry, creating a tension between all three that continues throughout the novel. Fortunately they are released and reunite in Rome.

Of course they don't give up and (after research in Rome and a journey to the dead priest's village) find their way back to Ethiopia. There, Frank (who has a pilot's license) manages to rent a small plane. Hunted fugitives, they meet Colonel Gann and together continue the search for the black monastery. Naturally we expect another encounter with General Getachu, which materializes. Do they find the Holy Grail? You'll have to read the book to find out.

I have to admit that this was not one of my favorites of DeMille's books. I found The Quest an oddly ambiguous novel of belief, faith, romance and adventure. But, if you enjoy mystical mysteries, or have a fascination with the Holy Grail, you won't want to miss it.

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