Katherine Neville wrote a book that loads of people liked entitled The Eight. Yes, a chess-based across- centuries adventure cum mystery, filled with ancient lore and alchemical notions and. . . well, for those who have not read it, a sort of Da Vinci Code thing but (in my view) loads better. And the whole premise has to do with a mystical (Sufi) chess board. Symbols and hermeneutics -- across families, history, continents. And yes, Neville (finally?) has a new novel out (newish?) entitled The Fire.(Thanks to eldrbarry.net for the picture.)
So, why does it appear here? Not because it is a mystery. Not because I read it though I did. Because it involves Careme -- who if you do not know who he is, you are truly not a foodie interested in history -- not to mention a fictitious restaurant where pretty darn high falutin' stuff is cooked over an open hearth. The insight into the labor that goes into building and sustaining a fire for such a restaurant is only the tip of the iceberg (well, now there's a truly mixed metaphor). Who is Careme? The man, perhaps, who invented the notion of high end chef -- chef, for example, to Talleyrand. And who is Talleyrand? Click away and find out -- remember, while Neville is a novelist, in her genre, everything is connected to everyone. Truly. And yes, the foodie theme continues because there is a key character who flunked out of the CIA (by which I do not mean the Central Intelligence Agency but the Culinary Institute of America, obviously). This character is a major one for Neville -- though I have to admit she (the character) does not strike me as the sharpest mind ever. Definitely not.
The novel is pretty fun, though I confess I sort of glazed over for some of it, and I found it less entrancing than The Eight. But, then this one does involve food -- and, well, that does matter. Not to mention the alchemical marriage of opposites a la Carl Jung. All in all, I was surprised by the food connection, expecting just a romp through history in a sort of swashbuckling fashion. Everything goes better with foodie foodie connections,