Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

Index      In these times of Da Vinci Code fervor, it’s great to see somebody come out with a new twist on the Holy Grail/secret society theme.  In this novel, be prepared to deal with widely differing time periods and a multitude of characters.  The story lines are set in present day and in medieval France, and both involve the preservation of three books, said to contain the secret of the Grail, from the wrong hands. 

     Alice Tanner, a hapless volunteer on an archaeological dig in the French Pyrenees, discovers by accident  an underground chamber with two skeletons and the labyrinthine pattern on the wall, in addition to a ring with the same motif.  Is it a ho hum discovery, or the find of the millennium?  Alice finds out the hard way, when she finds out that more than a few interested minds want what is in the cave, and don’t mind eliminating the human obstacles to get it, including Alice.

     Entwined with the latter day story is the 13th century tale of Alais, daughter of a castle steward, who is caught up in the events of the crusade against the Cathars, a Christian sect popular in southern France at the time.  Politics and greed play a strong part in the intrigue, with betrayals on all sides.  Alais is a highly likeable heroine, bearing up to indignities well from societal pressures at the time. 

     It’s an entertaining read – a bit more densely written than The Da Vinci Code, but still a great page turner.  Be prepared to encounter a good chunk of French and Occitan (the Romance language spoken in southern France in the 1200s) as you wend your way through this novel.  For Grail fans, medieval buffs, and lovers of intrigue alike.  And, if you like this one, try Katherine Neville’s The Eight, which also has secret societies, mythical esoterica, and chases aplenty, and is a rollicking good, albeit dense, read.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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