Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)
Charlie Lovett’s books are books for people who love books. (Say that three times fast.) They are constructed on what I think of as the Da Vinci Code model: a mystery must be solved using clues hidden in art and literature, in dim galleries and dusty libraries, by a bookish antihero, usually with a fetching female sidekick. Instead of Dan Brown’s worldwide evil conspiracies, though, Lovett’s characters are uncovering long-lost secrets about great books. Lovett has tackled Shakespeare and Austen in his previous novels, and in The Lost Book of the Grail he takes on the King Arthur legends.
I was particularly pleased that Lovett chose the fictitious town of Barchester, invented by author Anthony Trollope more than 150 years ago, in which to set The Lost Book of the Grail. In doing so, he was able to create his own “history” of the Holy Grail without being constrained by the host of other legends that place it at Glastonbury, etc. I also just love it when the worlds of fiction sneak into each other!
That said, The Lost Book of the Grail is a somewhat uneven read. It starts well, and the “flashback” chapters that describe the Grail’s history are engaging, but about halfway through the story gets bogged down. The hero, Arthur Prescott, works for about fifty pages on cracking a code the readers never see (or get a chance to try for themselves), which is about as interesting as watching Nicolas Cage drone his way through Windtalkers. Then everything rushes to the finish in the last twenty pages–code broken, secret room found, Holy Grail acquired, life decisions made, THE END.
I would still recommend The Lost Book of the Grail to the aforementioned people who love books, especially people who love books about King Arthur or English cathedrals. But it is not destined for the canon of Grail literature.
Available through the BRIDGES Library System