cover image The Quest

The Quest

Nelson DeMille. Hachette/Center Street, $29 (464p) ISBN 978-1-4555-7642-5

War-torn Ethiopia remains the backdrop to DeMille's (The Panther) re-imagining of this intense thriller, originally published in 1975 and set during the country's brutal revolution. Two journalists, Frank Purcell and Henry Mercado, and photographer Vivian chase the struggle outside the relative safety of Addis Ababa and share a harrowing night in the jungle where they meet a dying Italian priest. A captive for 40 years, the escapee confirms the existence of the fabled Holy Grail, the vessel used at the Last Supper, and a secret guarded by Coptic monks deep in the bush. Narrowly escaping court martial and probable torture by sadistic General Getachu of the revolutionary forces, the three are booted from Ethiopia before they can investigate with orders never to return. Despite an interlude in Rome, the mystique of the grail compels the intrigued journalists and their knowledgeable companion Colonel Gunn to sneak back to Africa for a story "good enough to pursue to the end." Divergent motives%E2%80%94faith, fatalism, and skepticism%E2%80%94and a brewing love triangle drive the often disturbing pilgrimage founded on hearsay and instinct. The explorers never earn the credibility of Dan Brown's Robert Langdon; the location of the Holy Grail in Ethiopia, despite all the tales and legend, never gains enough momentum to work as a thrilling probability. Still, DeMille creates excitement and dread through his elaborate descriptions of the jungle. Ethiopia looms at the novel's heart as the "the most blessed and most cursed land." Agent: Jennifer Joel, International Creative Management Partners. (Sept.)