He’s a book-loving Brit who’s skeptical about modernity; she’s a tech-savvy Yank who talks too much. Is it possible this unlikely pair of “Grail buddies” could forge a meeting of minds—and even hearts—while tracking down one of the world’s most revered treasures?
In his latest literary mystery, Lovett (The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge, 2015, etc.) supplements his trademark meld of books, romance, and adventure with an element of (fairly English) humor and some nods in the direction of P.G. Wodehouse. Set in the fantasy English town of Barchester, a place invented by Victorian novelist Anthony Trollope but used by other writers since, it introduces 40-year-old fuddy-duddy academic Arthur Prescott, who lives a bachelor’s life of literature, conversation, and love for Barchester Cathedral. But Arthur’s orderly existence is about to be upended by the arrival of 26-year-old American Bethany Davis, who's been given the job of digitizing the ancient manuscripts in the cathedral’s library. Arthur and Bethany share a fascination with the legendary, lost magical cup of the Holy Grail, which Arthur’s grandfather told him, in secret, was hidden somewhere at Barchester. Arthur has also long sought the missing Book of Ewolda, a life of the sixth-century founder of the monastery that became the cathedral. More of a romp than Lovett’s preceding novels, this tale interleaves its sometimes-comic 21st-century sleuthing with episodes from Barchester’s—and England’s—history that give clues to St. Ewolda and the Grail while charting the dogged evolution of Christian faith over some two millennia. There’s lots of research too, on everything from code-cracking to the creation of vellum, but it’s underpinned by a pleasing treasure hunt mixed with the romantic involvement of two genially mismatched figures.
A solidly built, innocently bookish diversion with a distinct Masterpiece Theater flavor.