The Quest
Nelson DeMille
Center Street 2013
464 pages

The Quest is the expanded version of the novel penned by Nelson DeMille in 1975.  The author decided that the original needed “more sex or romance”, although that does not account for much of the additional 200 pages.  Kindle version at Amazon

The Quest refers to the oft repeated tale, the journey that drives a select few beyond human endurance, namely the search for the illusive chalice that touched the lips of Christ.

Here the quest begins in 1974 in war-ravaged Ethiopia.  Two journalists and their mysterious young photographer Vivian Smith have joined forces to cover the action.  The men share unique common ground.  The older, Henry Mercado, is a former political prisoner of the Gulag, while Frank Purcell, previously a war correspondent, was once captive in a Cambodian prison.  All are fearless and driven.

The journey begins in the jungle ruins of a Roman bath where they encounter a mortally wounded priest who has recently escaped from 40 years in captivity.  His dying words impart a fantastic story of an ancient and powerful reliquary protected by monks who inhabit an illusive jungle fortress called the Black Monastery.  The monks are the guardians of the Holy Grail.

The three decide that they must honour the priest’s life by telling his story, and embark on their own journalistic and spiritual quest of a lifetime:  They vow to brave threatening adversaries along with harsh and dangerous conditions to find the ancient and revered artifact that has alluded man for centuries.  In the process they find their own faith, or test it.

The Quest by Nelson DeMille is interesting and often an exciting and daring adventure.  It is a great story in the making.  It starts strong within a compelling and complex war and historical backdrop.  If you are interested, there is much to learn about politics, battles, boundaries and religious philosophies

Some segments are particularly dramatic, and great to read.  When something exciting and unexpected happens, it sets the adrenaline pumping and you want it to continue.  The return adventure to the jungle is well done, but a long time coming.  Their preliminary research of pouring through ancient maps and archives is interesting, however when it is combined with multiple planning meetings over meals and bottles of wine, it takes a while for the story to really take off.

The characters are adventurous, but there doesn’t appear to be anything particularly compelling beyond proximity and the quest itself that brings them together.  I don’t buy in to their relationships.  Very little poses as romance.  Even the bit of sex is relatively benign.  There is too much bed hopping in addition to lies, deception and betrayal between “friends” to take the love story sub-plot of The Quest at all seriously.

This reader is somewhat ambivalent and disappointed by The Quest’s ending, but I suppose there was no other choice.  I would like to read the original version to discover what changes were made, and provide an honest opinion, but at present, I do not believe that The Quest by Nelson DeMille needed to be over 400 pages.  Some tightening up would have made it a smoother more enjoyable read overall.

Other Nelson DeMille titles reviewed here:   Wild Fire     Radiant Angel