Book review: Inquisition by David Gibbins

When the wreck of a 17th century ship is found off the coast of Cornwall, it sets in motion an epic quest leading back to the disappearance of the iconic Holy Grail.

Monday, 11th June 2018, 4:03 pm
Updated Tuesday, 19th June 2018, 11:33 am
Inquisition by David Gibbins
Inquisition by David Gibbins

Welcome back to the thrilling underwater world of adventure, danger and intrigue that has become the hallmark of archaeologist and author David Gibbins’ brilliant Jack Howard novels.

Inquisition is the tenth title in this extraordinary series which blends fascinating nuggets of real history with all-action tales of deep sea derring do and edge-of-the-seat suspense.

Gibbins is a passionate diver and derives much of the inspiration for his novels from the many expeditions he has led around the world to investigate ancient shipwrecks and other archaeological sites.

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Here he harnesses the hunt for the fabled Holy Grail with the dark days of the Inquisition in Portugal and a largely forgotten episode in British history involving the famous diarist Samuel Pepys and his role in the British evacuation of Tangier in 1684.

In the year 258, as the blood of martyred Christians runs through Rome’s catacombs, Pope Sixtus entrusts the Holy Grail, the Church’s most sacred object, to Proselius, a Roman legionary and, most importantly to him, a soldier of Christ.

But there are others who want the holy relic… not least a group called Altamanus. These enforcers of the new Emperor Valerian will never relent in their quest to obliterate the symbol of belief that gives power.

Centuries later in 1684, while overseeing the evacuation of the English colony of Tangier, Royal Navy official Samuel Pepys attempts to retrieve a treasure which has resurfaced after more than a thousand years. Meanwhile, a Jewish merchant is tortured by the Altamanus, a secret group still working to locate the long lost Grail.

Fast forward to the present day and a wreck off the Cornish coast reveals clues to a mystery that marine archaeologist Jack Howard had thought beyond solving.

Jack and his marine engineer partner Costas embark on an epic quest that takes them to the sunken ruins of the pirate city of Port Royal in Jamaica but the spectre of the deadly Inquisition dogs their every step, and Jack must face a descent into hell itself if he is to uncover the greatest reward in Christendom…

Inquisition is much more than just another action thriller as Gibbins digs deep below the waves and into world history for an exhilarating adventure awash in ancient skulduggery, breathtaking diving sequences, murderous intent and an exciting modern twist.

This is an author with a broad knowledge base and yet he wears his learning lightly as we follow the charismatic Jack and his amiable and reliable sidekick Costas into the deepest waters, the darkest danger and some enthralling chapters from the past.

From Rome in the third century and Portugal during the deadly Inquisition to the Cornish coast, North Africa and the seas off Jamaica, this is history and mystery with a powerful sea salt flavour!

(Headline, paperback, £8.99)