Kate Mosse,
(Orion, 2006)

If you enjoyed The Da Vinci Code, you must read this. It gives a much better interpretation of the grail and its legends than Dan Brown ever achieved.

If you loved The Historian -- the excellent book on Dracula by Elizabeth Kostova -- you will adore this book. It moves between past and present much more seamlessly and draws the two together much better.

If you like good flowing prose of the best writers or the twists and turns of Agatha Christie and more modern thriller writers or heart-stopping tension, this is the book for you.

The feel of southern France in the early 13th century is recreated with a fantastic flair. You feel that you are there. It gives you history without slowing the pace in any way. Modern France is also brought to your armchair to the extent that if you have not been there, you are now thinking of it as a next holiday. If the historic past is preserved as well as Mosse describes it, one wonders why it is not marketed like Paris and Rome was since the Brown books.

The strap line on the cover is "Three secrets, two women, one grail," and to a large extent that gives you the gist of the matters on offer here.

At an archaeological dig in 2005, Alice Tanner literally stumbles on two skeletons. In Carcassonne in 1209, a young girl called Alais receives a mysterious book. Over a stirring story spanning almost 700 pages, these two girls of similar names converge -- but you will not have an easy ride. The twists are inspired. The chapter endings do not give you permission to take a break. You will find yourself intending to read "just one more chapter" before having that coffee ... but prepare to go thirsty.

The last few pages giving an interpretation of the Holy Grail are inspired and inspiring. This explanation is much more plausible than the current ideas out there, and are so much more acceptable. Why did no one think of it before?

This is a story crying out for Steven Spielberg to direct the film. In fact, in many ways it reads like a film. It would be an ideal book for even non-readers to get the habit. If you are a web addict you can get great background on the novel and much more at www.mosselabyrinth.co.uk.

by Nicky Rossiter
1 April 2006

Buy it from Amazon.com.