In this first novel from self-help and spiritual nonfiction author Harrison (We Are All One, 2015, etc.), a young married couple’s European getaway turns into a perilous hunt for a mystical relic.
Alex and Sara experience a series of difficulties during an economic downturn: Alex has a seizure, Sara miscarries twins, and Alex’s mother dies from cancer. Alex’s spunky grandmother Lucette offers to send them both to the French countryside for some rest and relaxation. All she asks is that the couple say hello to her old friend Jean-Michel while they’re in town. Jean-Michel turns out to be more than the eccentric recluse that Alex and Sara initially take him to be. He soon draws the pair into an ancient drama surrounding a mysterious, golden scallop shell that just might hold the key to global salvation. The adventure that follows draws on a dizzying array of mythologies, bits of world history, and threads of esoteric Christianity, beginning with the fall of Atlantis and ending with a terrifying, powerful neo-Nazi cult that the protagonists must thwart. Guided by Jean-Michel’s metaphysical teachings, Alex and Sara learn to set aside their skepticism and “recognise, realise and actualise [their] divine inheritance.” The narrative bounces back and forth between fast-paced action sequences and dense blocks of exposition, most of which involve Jean-Michel filling in Alex and Sara about the shell’s intricate back story. The result is reminiscent of a classic Indiana Jones adventure, with the requisite close shaves, Hollywood-style mysticism, and especially villainous villains. However, the book’s clunky pacing hinders its riff on a familiar form. One section of exposition, for example, stretches on for almost 50 pages, stopping the story in its tracks. At other times, the narrative races implausibly quickly, with events hinging on abrupt changes of heart or too-convenient coincidences. Overwrought sentences also drag the action down: “ ‘Exactly my dear,’ Lucette affirmed in a supportive and positive manner, patting Sara on the knee as she spoke.” Still, fans of Dan Brown–style pseudo-academic adventures may overlook these drawbacks, and those readers will be glad to discover the heartfelt, timely messages of peace, tolerance, and environmental responsibility that Harrison weaves into Alex and Sara’s journey.
An entertaining, if unpolished, old-school adventure with deep philosophical roots.