In the newest high-stakes historical thriller from master storyteller Davis Bunn, skepticism vies with faith amid the grit and grandeur of post-World-War-I Europe.
It’s 1923, and a resilient Paris is starting to recover from the ravages of World War I and the Spanish Flu Epidemic. Enter young Muriel Ross, an amateur American photographer tasked with documenting the antiques that her employer, U.S. Senator Tom Bryan, has traveled to France in order to acquire. Although she’s exhilarated to have escaped her parents and the confines of their stifling Virginia home, Muriel has lingering questions about why the senator has chosen her for this grand adventure. Nevertheless, she blossoms in her new surroundings, soaking up Parisian culture and capturing the sights and sounds of Paris on her camera.
But events take a dangerous turn when she discovers that the senator is on a mission far more momentous—and potentially deadly—than a mere shopping trip. At the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Senator Bryan asks Muriel to photograph an astonishing artifact: a piece of the True Cross, discovered by Empress Helena—a historical figure familiar to readers of The Pilgrim. When rumors surface that another fragment has been unearthed, Muriel becomes enmeshed in a covert international alliance dedicated to authenticating the fragment—and protecting it from those who will stop at nothing to steal and discredit it.
Muriel Ross was born at the turn of the 20th century. Now 23, she’s exhibiting an independent streak her mother doesn’t understand. Instead of looking for a husband, Muriel researches Byzantium artifacts at the Smithsonian. Her employer invites her to France on a research trip but she doesn’t know why she’s been selected for this trip when there are others more worthy of the trip. But Muriel speaks fluent French and is an amateur photographer with an empathic eye; qualities the Senator and others believe are vital for their secret quest.
The book begins with Muriel already in France and Bunn moves the action along at a steady pace. I was surprised at just how short this novel was, yet nothing seemed to be missing. It’s full of quiet detail, some of which admittedly feels like it comes from a history book or tourist guide. It’s a time of change in Europe. France is recovering from the war and Muriel is able to freely roam Paris with her camera. Her movements in Constantinople, however, are extremely limited as the Ottoman Empire is in the process of collapsing. It’s in Constantinople that Muriel faces her biggest test and the decision she must make reminded me of the one Indiana Jones had to make in The Last Crusade. It all comes down to faith. How much faith does Muriel have, in herself and in God?
The publisher’s summary of The Fragment references The Pilgrim, a previous title by Davis Bunn. I’ve not read it and don’t feel the omission took anything away from my enjoyment of this book. If you have knowledge of Saint Helena, you’ll be fine here.
Thank you to Franciscan Media for my complimentary electronic copy of The Fragment, which I downloaded from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.
Do you plan to read The Fragment? Let me know your thoughts.
Publisher: Franciscan Media
Publication Date: 19 February 2016
Page Count: 176