A solidly built, innocently bookish diversion with a distinct Masterpiece Theater flavor.

THE LOST BOOK OF THE GRAIL

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.

Pub Date: Feb. 28, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-399-56251-8

Page Count: 321

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: Dec. 7, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2016

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Reader Votes

  • Readers Vote
  • 17

Our Verdict

  • Our Verdict
  • GET IT

  • Kirkus Reviews'
    Best Books Of 2018

  • New York Times Bestseller

CIRCE

A retelling of ancient Greek lore gives exhilarating voice to a witch.

“Monsters are a boon for gods. Imagine all the prayers.” So says Circe, a sly, petulant, and finally commanding voice that narrates the entirety of Miller’s dazzling second novel. The writer returns to Homer, the wellspring that led her to an Orange Prize for The Song of Achilles (2012). This time, she dips into The Odyssey for the legend of Circe, a nymph who turns Odysseus’ crew of men into pigs. The novel, with its distinctive feminist tang, starts with the sentence: “When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.” Readers will relish following the puzzle of this unpromising daughter of the sun god Helios and his wife, Perse, who had negligible use for their child. It takes banishment to the island Aeaea for Circe to sense her calling as a sorceress: “I will not be like a bird bred in a cage, I thought, too dull to fly even when the door stands open. I stepped into those woods and my life began.” This lonely, scorned figure learns herbs and potions, surrounds herself with lions, and, in a heart-stopping chapter, outwits the monster Scylla to propel Daedalus and his boat to safety. She makes lovers of Hermes and then two mortal men. She midwifes the birth of the Minotaur on Crete and performs her own C-section. And as she grows in power, she muses that “not even Odysseus could talk his way past [her] witchcraft. He had talked his way past the witch instead.” Circe’s fascination with mortals becomes the book’s marrow and delivers its thrilling ending. All the while, the supernatural sits intriguingly alongside “the tonic of ordinary things.” A few passages coil toward melodrama, and one inelegant line after a rape seems jarringly modern, but the spell holds fast. Expect Miller’s readership to mushroom like one of Circe’s spells.

Miller makes Homer pertinent to women facing 21st-century monsters.

Pub Date: April 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-316-55634-7

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Jan. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2018

Did you like this book?

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

more