Like Graham Greene and Mary McCarthy before him, MacDonald Harris has written a thriller. And like them, he brings to his story the alchemical talent of a first-class novelist: The Treasure of Sainte Foy is not only gripping, but also transcendent.
In the picturesque, isolated French village of Conques stands the Abbey of Sainte Foy. The church houses a priceless medieval treasure whose centerpiece is a magnificent, three-foot-high statue of the holy martyr Sainte Foy, bejeweled and covered with gold, its strange alabaster eyes gazing ahead as if at a nearby invisible world.
To a small group of political terrorists in Toulouse, the treasure is an irresistible target. Working with them is Patrick, a disaffected American art historian, who recruits into the band Marie-Ange, the guide to the church. We see their methodical preparations for the robbery, the growing attraction between Patrick and Marie-Ange, the implacable pursuit of the police—all cool, dramatic, and passionate as a Bogart film. But we also sense the mysterious underworld of the Languedoc, a region of heretics and saints, criminals and martyrs; the stakes of the novel subtly change and ramify; we are caught up in a gorgeous and mystical endgame as the forces of retribution close in; we get the uncanny feeling that at play in the novel are forces unseen and unseeable.
What is really at play, of course, is the masterful hand of MacDonald Harris. A native Californian, Harris is best known for The Balloonist, nominated for the National Book Award and translated into half a dozen language, and Pandora's Galley, his mesmerizing tale of the last days of the Venetian Republic. In The Treasure of Sainte Foy, Harris has written a novel that is spellbinding in every sense of the world.