Dual stories, historical hokum. I have a feeling that the literary establishment would not consider The Sacrifice Stone by Elizabeth Harris in the same sort of exulted breath as The Athenian Murders, but it plays the same kind of game. In story one we have the tale of a Mithraist Roman centurion who becomes the protector of a young boy who later is matyred as a saint in southern France. In the modern day we have a historian and his sister investigating the life of said saint and recent miracles involving him with ghostly goings on. It is a decidedly lumpy book.

The problem with dual narratives is that unless you balance them very well, one story overpowers the other. I found myself rushing the roman story to find out what was happening in the modern day, thinking that the historical stuff was mere background (it wasn’t). Alternating chapters become frustrating, you lose the rythmn of both stories. And then, half way through my allegiances switched. Suddenly the Roman narrative, with its religious details and more melodrmatic story dominated. Also partially because the modern day story was so purient. This book was released in 1996 but we were still suposed to be congratulatory about our female lead being a scientist and being independent. Oddly the modern day story seemed less convincing.

It is not a great book (though it is hands down better than ‘The Reckoning’ my other holiday light read), but it does have some interesting stuff to say about Roman’s and religion that I did not know before. It is a case in point though where with dual storytelling that one strand starts strong and seems to run out of steam while the other one takes over.

It is also a book with the most alcohol in it I can remember. In the modern day story, whenever our lead character does anything, and I mean anthing, she instantly goes out for a drink to celebrate, comiserate, take the air. This of course is thoroughly understandable to me, yet its presence felt almost forced in the book. And oddly the chapters I enjoyed the most I read in the airport, with a drink.