In mid-2012 I reviewed a book entitled Toward the Gleam that chronicled the adventures of an Oxford professor of philology who, in the aftermath of World War I, happened upon an ancient manuscript which told the story, in a language lost in time, of an advanced civilization existing some thirty to forty thousand years ago. I was mesmerized by incredibly imaginative story and, after several re-readings, Toward the Gleam remains one of my favorite works of fiction. I was, therefore, elated to learn earlier this year that T.M. Doran had penned a sequel, The Lucifer Ego.
Whereas most of the narrative in Toward the Gleam took place in the years between World Wars I and II and centered upon the adventures of Oxford don John Hill, the action now moves into the second decade of the 21st century and the adventures of Oxford paleo-archaeologist Lyle Stuart. About to embark on a sabbatical to allow him to concentrate on a Chalcolithic Age site in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Stuart is summoned to St. Hugh’s Charterhouse in Sussex by his uncle, Abbot Henry.
Henry (who alone calls Stuart by his given name, Frodo) pleads with his nephew to turn his investigatory skills toward finding an ancient manuscript stolen from the monastery’s archives. The manuscript had been entrusted to the care of St. Hugh’s by the Oxford philologist John Hill in the early 1970s. Henry explains that the manuscript, only partially translated by Hill, tells of an ancient civilization dating back tens of thousands of years, which Stuart finds preposterous. Archaeology attests to the development of “civilization” some six millennia in the past with the Sumerians, Egyptians and in the Indus Valley. Stuart reluctantly accedes to his uncle’s request and with the advice of his older brother Samwise, an intelligence operative, and Ugandan psychologist Beatrice Adams, and sets out to track down the manuscript. The most likely culprit would seem to be Brother Gregory of St. Hugh’s, who had left the order, resuming his civilian name of Noel Dekeyser, and last reported to be working at the Sorbonne in Paris. Stuart’s hunt for Dekeyser leads him from the antiquarian archives of Oxford University to Folkestone on the English Channel to Paris and Mainz, Germany, where he meets with enigmatic Professor Arthur Russell—and a dead end to his search, for Dekeyser seemed to have fallen off the edge of the earth. But the odyssey turns deadly as Lyle is nearly killed in a suicide bombing in a Mainz restaurant and it becomes murderously evident that other malignant forces are intent upon discovering the location of the manuscript.
Stuart persists on his odyssey and along the way, learns much about himself, those whom he loves, and those driven by an obsession to unveil the mysteries of John Hill’s ancient manuscripts. The Lucifer Ego is a worthy sequel to Toward the Gleam, and while it can be read as a stand-alone novel, reading them in sequence would enhance the enjoyment of these imaginative works. And as I noted in my review back in 2012, T.M. Doran’s ingenious efforts might prompt one to re-read (or read for the first time) a celebrated trilogy written by another Oxford philologist named John.
Four trowels for The Lucifer Ego.