Modern Lit: Requiem, by Graham Joyce


My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Tom Webster’s wife, Katie, died suddenly about a year ago, and he just can’t seem to get back on his feet. He resigns from his teaching job, amid some unsavory rumors about him and one of his students, and heads to Jerusalem, where his best friend, Sharon, from college days, now resides. But Tom doesn’t have her current address, and while searching for her, he befriends an elderly man at his hotel. David confides to Tom that he is in possession of a valuable Dead Sea Scroll, and, knowing that he’s dying, he insists that Tom take it, which he does with great reluctance. Tom’s thrilled to be walking the streets of the city, but is accosted repeatedly by a creepy old woman, who changes her appearance before his eyes, and leaves him enigmatic messages. He tracks Sharon down, and she takes him in, introducing to a translator, Ahmed. Ahmed discovers that the scroll was written by Mary Magdalen, and reveals stunning evidence about the founding of the Christian religion. Ahmed, a heavy hash user, also tells Tom about the djinni, spirits who are making his life miserable, convincing Tom that they’re bedeviling him as well.

Sounds simple enough. But Requiem is told in a series of non-linear flashbacks, and it becomes increasingly difficult to fathom what is going on with Tom. Is he losing his mind? Is the old woman a ghost, a djinn, or is she real? Sharon, a drug rehab therapist doesn’t know what to think, especially after a grueling djinn experience of her own. Among these spirits is that of Katie, who seems to want something from them both. As it turns out, Sharon, Ahmed, and Tom are all struggling with their own guilt issues, and none of them is doing it well.

Enigmas can be interesting, as they are in this book. While the setting is crucial to the novel, there is very little overt action, most of which takes place in the minds of the protagonists. The ending is quite dramatic, as well as unexpected. This was my intro to the work of Graham Joyce, who can certainly write with power. Looking forward to checking out his other titles, most of which have not been published in the American market.


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