The Tenth Saint
Posted by addisethiopia on April 19, 2012
by D. J. Niko
In her first novel, D. J. Niko establishes Sarah Weston as an appealing character who can easily be carried through the two additional novels already under contract. A fine addition to the growing genre of archeological thrillers, “The Tenth Saint” benefits from Niko’s persuasive handling of Sarah’s tenacious personality, the remote and exotic Ethiopian setting, conspiracy theories, and romance. Somewhat less persuasive is the time travel element, but that, too, remains at least intriguing.
Born to wealth and privilege, Cambridge University archeologist Sarah Weston has long shed any debutante sensibilities she may have had. As she leads her research team in a remote mountain area, the ancient kingdom of Aksum, Ethiopia, Sarah faces physical risk and hardship unflinchingly. Unexpectedly, she comes across a sealed tomb and unusual inscriptions.
Assisted by American anthropologist Daniel Madigan, she strives to translate the inscriptions and identify the tomb – which is somehow connected with the Coptic Christians and their saintly mystics. The clues take them to Addis Ababa, monasteries in Lalibela (a holy city), and to an underground library housing a codex that is the key to the mysteries of the past – and possibly to those of the future.
Ms. Niko’s narration alternates between the ongoing present that traces Sarah’s hazardous investigation and a remote past (4th century CE) in which an individual at first unidentified and suffering from amnesia is eventually revealed to be the tenth saint of Coptic tradition. He is a Caucasian westerner named Gabriel who has somehow turned up all but entombed under desert sands. Discovered and nursed to health by Bedouins, he becomes part of their community, mastering their medicinal lore. After five years, it becomes clear that he must move on to pursue his gradually revealed mission.
The messages left behind by Gabriel – and echoed by a 14th-century letter which is given to Sarah in Paris – involve poetic prophecies of an apocalypse brought on by human endeavors. There are references, in particular, not only to climate change but also to dangerous initiatives to control its consequences. While some would wish the apocalyptic vision revealed, others would wish that it remain hidden. Powerful vested interests, including those of Sarah’s father, are at work. What Sarah and Daniel discover brings them many more enemies than friends. . .