The Fragment opens in the year 1923. The world is recovering from the privations of the Great War. Muriel Ross, a researcher at the Smithsonian, has had a dream come true. She is to accompany Sen. Thomas Bryan to Paris! Once in Paris, Muriel falls in love with the people. A photographer of some great skill, she photographs people in all walks of life—struck by the joy she sees in their faces, despite the ordeals of the war.
Sen. Bryan, however, is there on another task—and he hopes Muriel will be the key person he needs to realize his dream. Wearing a gown designed and fitted by none other than Coco Chanel herself, Muriel meets the Prime Minister of France. She impresses him with her knowledge and demeanor, so she (and the senator) are taken to the Cathedral of Notre Dame where she is allowed to photograph a reliquary holding, tradition states, a piece of the True Cross.
So begins their adventure—from Paris via Orient Express to Constantinople. Muriel finds herself stretched and intrigued and overwhelmed by her experiences. Will they attain their quest? Atatürk is besieging Constantinople … battles rage … alliances shift. The result …?
Muriel Ross is a well-written, very likable character. Beset by doubts and wonderings about her destiny, she nonetheless retains her strong faith. The romantic interest (every story has to have one, correct?) is less believable. Charles Fouchet, an aide to a French official, accompanies them on their quest. Charles has lost a wife and child to the influenza epidemic and, apparently, has lost his faith as well. Given the descriptions, I had a hard time believing Muriel would find him attractive.
The history of the area—of Paris after the war, of the legends of the Cross, of Constantinople prior to Atatürk—is very detailed, but, I’m afraid, most readers will skip the history to get to the story. Unfortunately, the story without the history is quite slim. I, personally, was enthralled by the history but found the presentation of the historical facts contrived, especially toward the denouement. Four stars—not for The Fragment, but for the historical education and the heroine.
Davis Bunn is a prolific and much-awarded author. In 2014, he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Christy Award board of judges. He is also the Writer-in-Residence at Regent’s Park College at Oxford, England.
Franciscan Media gave me a copy of The Fragment in exchange for my unbiased review.