The Relic

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

THE RELIC, an international thriller with a complicated and original plot, is Evelyn Anthony’s thirty-first novel. The popular British writer uses her brief descriptions of places and peoples to maximum effect in this page-turner, which is set in past and present Russia as well as in London, Geneva, and Paris.

The plot centers upon St. Vladimir’s Cross, a jeweled cross believed to convey the right to rule Russia. Hidden from the Bolsheviks, the cross was stolen by a rapist and murderer. Believing his death was imminent, the thief passed the cross on to his young friend, a Ukrainian, who gave it to his daughter Lucy with instructions that she use it to liberate Ukraine.

This much is background. In the present action, Lucy makes contact with Dimitri Volkov, a Ukrainian patriot who has apparently been broken by his experiences in prison and by the brainwashing of his wife, who is a KGB agent. Volkov falls in love with Lucy and this experience renews and revitalizes him. He prepares to take his place in history by returning to his homeland with the cross.

Volkov’s wife follows the lovers with a hired killer, and the plot turns into an international chase as the killers are themselves followed by other hired killers trying to steal the cross for political reasons. The conclusion finds the lovers outwitting their pursuers and finally using St. Vladimir’s Cross to bring about peace rather than war.

This book has a brilliant surface with a persuasive mix of real people and events with fictional ones. It is not a deep novel; it lacks the moral dimensions of a Graham Greene thriller and the complex subtleties of character and plot found in John le Carre’s work. But it is a fast-paced story with an attractive and timely plot, and it has an emotionally satisfying conclusion.