The Quest by Nelson DeMille

Quick Summary

After receiving a tip from a dying priest, four unlikely partners begin a quest to find the Holy Grail in the jungles of Ethiopia.

Review by Richard Goldman

Demille's latest has quite an unusual backstory. He originally wrote this book 40 years ago, right around the time that it takes place in 1974. It was a novel about the horrible events in Ethiopia where a communist insurgency overthrew the government of Haille Selassi and installed a brutal regime that led to the mass killings and starvation that afflicted that country for years to come. It was never published but a few years ago he took it out and began revisions that would make it more of a a thriller. I'd say he's been very successful in keeping the fascinating and tragic events in Ethiopia as essential elements in a page-turning thriller with religious overtones. The protagonists are three journalists: Henry Mercado, an older man whose experiences in Ethiopia date to the Italian invasion of 1935; Vivian Smith, Henry's much younger photographer and lover and Jack Purcell, an American with his own  trail of experiences that include time in prison in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. These three take off from Addis Ababa to find the war but instead  find a dying priest in an abandoned spa built by Mussolini. From him they hear a tale of a monastery in the jungle where is found the Holy Grail. What follows is a wonderful tale that takes us through adventures that include capture by a psychotic revolutionary, a hunt for clues in the Vatican Library and, finally, a return to Ethiopia where they are joined by a British soldier previously employed by the Royalist forces who has his own agenda. Thoroughly delightful with many interesting touches of character and plot. I'm glad that DeMilled decided to take  out this first novel and give it a new life.