No, don’t listen. Keep going. Everything depends on getting to her on time.
A heavy fog was rolling in. He stumbled, then righted himself. He took the corner.
On both sides of him were identical colonnades with dozens of doors and recessed archways. He knew this place! He could hide here in plain sight and they would run by and –
The voice sounded as if it was coming to him from a great blue-green distance, but he refused to stop for it.
She was waiting for him … to save her … to save their secrets … and treasures …
The voice was pulling him up, up through the murky, briny heaviness.
Reluctantly, he opened his eyes …
Josh Ryder is an American press photographer who was badly injured in a suicide-bomb explosion in Rome, and ever since has been suffering from what he calls “jerks” back into the past.
He lived in fear of his own mind, which projected the fragmented kaleidoscopic images: of a young, troubled man in nineteenth-century New York City, of another in ancient Rome caught up in a violent struggle and of a woman who’d given up everything for their frightening passion.
When the story opens he has returned to Rome, eighteen months later, now not as a press photographer but as a representative of the Phoenix Foundation, an organisation which specialises in investigating the claims made by children to be, or at least to have memories of being, someone else.
The elderly Professor Rudolfo and the young Professor Gabriella Chase are excavating a tomb where, it is believed, the last Vestal Virgin was buried alive in the fourth century AD. One morning, early, Josh joins Professor Rudolfo in the tomb, and sees for the first time the skeleton of the long-dead priestess. In her hands, she still clutches a wooden box. And in that box are six precious stones, the “memory stones” that reputedly hold the secret to uncovering our past lives. Suddenly, Josh experiences a powerful jerk back to the fourth century and, to Rudolfo’s horror, starts desperately clawing his way into a blocked tunnel that leads out of the tomb by another route.
Then an intruder comes down into the tomb and the elderly professor, trying to prevent him from stealing the gems, is shot. Josh, of course, who was there at the time (but stuck in the tunnel and unable to wriggle back out), becomes a prime suspect.
The story is a thriller, and none the worse for that, but the depiction of living in two (three!) different worlds simultaneously is very convincing, as also is the way in which people who have known each other in previous lives meet again in the current one.
If you know little about reincarnation, this book will be an eye-opener for you. Even if you are an expert, you will not feel let down: the author knows his subject.
I must add that I particularly like the quotations at the head of various chapters. It is amazing how many of the most eminent people believed that they had lived before and would live again. Three examples from this book:
As the stars looked to me when I was a shepherd in Assyria, they look to me now in New England. (Henry David Thoreau)
Finding myself to exist in the world, I believe I shall, in some shape or another, always exist. (Benjamin Franklin)
The tomb is not a blind alley: it is a thoroughfare. It closes on the twilight. It opens on the dawn. (Victor Hugo)