War in Heaven Summary
War in Heaven is a novel concerned with the struggle over possession of a chalice that the characters believe is the Holy Grail, the cup from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper. A cup that could be this holy relic turns up in England in the twentieth century. Julian Davenant, the archdeacon of the Fardles village church, tries to protect it and prevent it from falling in to the wrong hands. In contrast, Gregory Persimmons, a retired businessman, strives to possess it and uses its power for black magic. Ultimately, the forces of good prevail, and Gregory is punished.
Two possibly unrelated events begin the novel. First, an unidentified corpse is found at the publishing firm that Gregory owns. Second, the contents of a manuscript at the firm are revealed, suggesting that the Grail is in the Fardles church. Gregory begins to obsess over the Grail. Renting a house in the Fardles area, he tries to buy the chalice and then pays to have it stolen; during the theft, Julian is attacked. Gregory also lures the Rackstraw family to his new residence, with the plan to kidnap their four-year-old son, Adam, and use him in black magic.
Aided by the Duke of North Ridings and Kenneth Mornington, Julian locates the chalice in Gregory’s home and steals it. Taking it to London, Julian hides in the Duke’s home. His prayers protect it from the evil spells that Gregory’s accomplices, Manasseh and Lavrodopoulos, are putting on it to destroy it. Gregory injures Barbara, Adam’s mother; poisons her; and brings in a “doctor” Manasseh, who will worsen her ill health while pretending to cure her. Julian agrees to exchange the chalice for Barbara’s health, for which they pray all night. A mysterious stranger, John, arrives in Fardles just as she is cured; he is Prester John of Arthurian myth.
In London, occult forces kill Mornington and threaten Julian, who is captured and tied up to be ritually killed. The combined positive forces emanating from the Grail and the actions of Prester John, who arrives in the nick of time, save Julian. Moreover, Gregory is arrested after confessing to an unsolved murder that had set the novel in motion. Back in Fardles, Prester John celebrates mass at the church; both he and the Grail disappear, and Julian dies in peace on the altar.
War in Heaven begins with the discovery of an unidentified corpse under the desk of Lionel Rackstraw, an editor at the Persimmons family firm. A few days later, Julian Davenant, the archdeacon of the village church in Fardles, visits Kenneth Mornington, a young editor at the firm, who shows him a copy of Historical Vestiges of Sacred Vessels in Folklore by Sir Giles Tumulty. Tumulty’s manuscript suggests that the Holy Grail (the chalice Jesus and his disciples drank from at the Last Supper) is at the Fardles church. Gregory Persimmons, the firm’s retired owner who is involved in the occult and has read the manuscript, determines to possess the Grail at any cost as a source of power for black magic.
Gregory moves to Cully, a country house near Fardles, to begin his quest. After a mysterious break-in at the church, and after Gregory unsuccessfully tries to purchase the chalice from the archdeacon, Gregory’s henchman attacks the archdeacon and steals it. Lionel and Barbara Rackstraw and their son, Adrian, are vacationing at Cully at Gregory’s invitation. Realizing that his occult power will be enhanced if he can corrupt an innocent child by initiating him into black magic, Gregory befriends the four-year-old boy and plans to take him and the chalice out of England.
A few weeks later, Mornington and the Duke of North Ridings, a local aristocrat, visit the archdeacon, who is convinced Gregory has the chalice. When they visit Cully, the archdeacon grabs the Grail from where it is prominently displayed and flees with his two friends. Despite a frenzied car chase, Gregory is unable to catch them, and the three men spend the night at the duke’s London home. Although Gregory wants the chalice...
(The entire section is 1,161 words.)