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WHAT happened to the True Cross? Have you ever wondered? Justin
Cartwright's new novel weaves past and present, the past strand
focusing on the True Cross, which was carried into battle by the
Crusaders at the Horns of Hattin, where it was captured by
Did Richard the Lionheart
secretly manage to negotiate its return? If so, where is it now?
Our hero, Richie Cathar, the son of a Lionheart obsessive, is
determined to find out, despite the fact that he is not a religious
believer, and to him it is a holy relic not of Christ but of the
Richie has never had a
proper job, but he is an Oxford graduate, and he gets a grant to
study the art of the Crusader kingdom, which takes him to
Jerusalem. There he meets a Christian Palestinian woman who knew
his late father, and falls desperately in love with Noor, her
Canadian niece. Sadly, Noor, a journalist, then goes on assignment
to Egypt, where she is kidnapped. Is she a spy? And when she is
released, why won't she communicate with him? Can Ritchie and Noor
find love and peace together, and will Richie find the Cross?
At one point Richie mentions
the most read quest novel of our times, The Da Vinci Code.
His own quest is subtler and more readable. There is great care
taken over the characterisation, and the minor figures are expertly
handled. Richie himself is sometimes difficult to like, being
rather cruel to the girl he loves before Noor, but he is a damaged
man: his quest to find the Cross, and the truth about the
Lionheart, is a quest to find peace with himself and his late
Lion Heart is an
adventure story, gripping and well told, but also the story of the
inner education of the hero, and as such equally satisfying.
Alexander Lucie-Smith is the author of Narrative
Theology and Moral Theology (Ashgate, 2007).