[Purcell] understood, too, that they had not necessarily been chosen to succeed, or even to live. But they’d been chosen to find the Holy Grail that was within themselves. And that was what this was always about; the Grail was a phantom and the journey was inward, into their hearts and souls.
While driving down a rutted road through the jungles of Ethiopia in September 1974, journalists Frank Purcell and Henry Mercado, accompanied by photographer Vivian Smith, veer through a thicket of bushes and end up at an abandoned hotel/spa. This was not a planned stop, and they all seem surprised to be there, including Purcell, the driver of the Jeep. When they encounter a wounded old priest, looking very near death, they gather around as he recounts a fantastic story about a black monastery he visited nearly 40 years ago, right before he was imprisoned until his escape that very morning. He is eager for them to listen to his tale. It is important that people know. He claims that he was sent by the Vatican to find the Grail. And he did. But he dies before telling them how to find it. Or did he? His story was long. Could he have given them enough clues? All Purcell, Mercado and Smith know is that they must now find it.
"Nelson DeMille wrote THE QUEST nearly 40 years ago. It has been fully rewritten, showcasing this masterful author’s historical knowledge, understanding of the human psyche, and matchless entertainment skills."
They almost don’t have a chance to begin their quest. The local tribes and provisional government all seem to share the same primitive ruthlessness. Fleeing from the brutal Gallas --- you don’t want to even imagine the atrocities these bloodthirsty killers are known for --- the trio runs into General Getachu, who turns out to be only slightly more civilized and almost as fond of cruelty. Getting away with their lives starts to look pretty iffy. The one good thing to happen is that they encountered an English knight along the way, Colonel Edmund Gann. The downside to their meeting is that Getachu condemns Gann to death immediately, and decides that Purcell, Mercado and Smith are guilty by association.
By some miracle --- one of many, but that’s what it’s all about --- they manage to get out of the country intact. No longer welcome and not in the best of health or physical shape, at least they are still breathing. You’d think the last place they would want to go would be Ethiopia. But the draw of the Grail, hidden in the mythical black monastery deep in the jungle, grows stronger and stronger until its pull is irresistible.
They all agree that going back into Ethiopia after their earlier ordeal --- and Colonel Gann now has a death warrant on his head should he ever return --- is insane, but they all agree that going back is absolutely essential. No question. No doubt. No turning back. But if any of them says no, that’s okay too.
Following in the old priest’s steps seems like an impossible task, but they keep assuring themselves that they have been chosen for this quest. At least Mercado and Smith do. Purcell remains skeptical, but for some unknown reason, even he pushes forward. There are many trials awaiting them. Naturally, Getachu is among those. But they must surmount every obstacle to reach their goal. Faith will carry them along. And luck. And Colonel Gann’s Uzi.
Nelson DeMille wrote THE QUEST nearly 40 years ago. It has been fully rewritten, showcasing this masterful author’s historical knowledge, understanding of the human psyche, and matchless entertainment skills. The novel crosses genres with its spiritualism, wit, adventure and romance, not to mention gripping action. Full of DeMille’s characteristic --- and unparalleled --- humor and intelligence, THE QUEST delivers. Boy, does it deliver.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on September 20, 2013