It’s a novel that is tailor-made to fit my little manifesto. It’s very good, very original, and it deserves to be appreciated first-hand. Both the story and the plot are intricate, bordering on the Byzantine, but to break it down, it is about The Montglane Service, an antique Chess set, made in India, and gifted to Charlemagne, which holds mystical and mythic powers, and must be protected by the innocent from falling into the hands of the evil.
There are two main story-lines, one featuring Cat Velis, a computer expert and accountant, who works for Con Ed, in the 1970’s. After refusing to do something illegal for her boss she is sent from New York to a dead-end assignment to Algeria, to work with a then-unknown organization called OPEC. Before she leaves a fortune-teller at a party tells her that her life is in danger, and quick as a wink two people are dead and Cat is afraid that she might be next. The other story is about two young nuns, Valentine and Mirielle, and is set in France during the Revolution. These two are sent to Paris with a mission that involves the mythical Service. Before long everyone is either trying to hide or find this powerful artifact.
If that was all there was to the story, I would be done with my review. The Eight, however, is over 500 pages long, and Ms. Neville has plenty of stories up her sleeve. Historical figures, from the Freemasons to Catherine the Great, from Muammar Gaddafi to Cardinal Richelieu and Charles Maurice de Talleyrand all play significant roles, and Ms. Neville spins plenty of myths and history into her tale as well. Both backgrounds are solid and believable without being burdened by too much minutiae. The prose is solid, and all of the main characters ring true. What makes The Eight really special is the way that Ms. Neville makes the two storylines twist and turn, each enforcing and informing the other until they are, in the end, one. It’s something that is rarely accomplished, and deserves a tip of the cap.