After a fairy grants his wish, a London architect becomes caught up in the perilous search for a centuries-old cloth displaying a divine image in this fantasy-infused debut.
Alex Harrison had often contemplated what to say to a wish-bestowing fairy. So when he runs into one—“a young, white-robed woman”—at Regent’s Park, he makes sure his wording is precise to avoid a “Monkey’s Paw” scenario. He requests the ability to travel anywhere in the world by simply thinking of it, speaking a couple of words, and tapping his knee. He later doubts the fairy’s validity until he successfully teleports to Oman. That’s where he encounters tenderhearted Burhan, who has a fascinating story to tell of a cloth that, back in the 12th century, reputedly captured the figure of God. Alex has no luck in tracking the cloth but does become enamored with a fellow train passenger, Carol. The two meet and Alex invites Carol to his architectural gig in France. Unfortunately, Burhan’s unsavory cousin, Salah, covets the cloth. Convinced Alex and Burhan can find it within a week, Salah gives them an incentive by kidnapping Carol. Burhan goes after the cloth while Alex’s new ability may prove beneficial in rescuing Carol before the deadline. Paterson takes a curious approach here in that the protagonist’s teleportation power isn’t the focus of the story. The author instead explores the engaging friendship between Alex and Burhan as well as the uncertain romance with Carol. (Alex is confounded that she’s living with a man named John.) But there are harrowing moments; Salah is unmistakably dangerous, and Alex rightly fears for Carol’s safety. And much of the engrossing tale lingers on the various environments presented throughout the narrative. Paterson’s exceptional prose turns the seemingly mundane into alluring imagery: At a shop in France, Alex sees “everything an animal had to offer in death… and a few of the things it provided while alive” (eggs and cheese, of course).
A solid blend of genres, though the writing and characters shine brightest.