Kate Mosse, the co-founder of the Orange Prize, already an established author of fiction, has written what she describes as her 'first work of commercial fiction'.
The novel is set in both the present day and the beginning of the 13th century and features two heroines - modern-day Alice who begins the novel helping out on an archaeological dig, and Alaïs, a teenage girl in Carcassonne at the time of the Fourth Crusade, which was launched against the Cathars because of heresy. Late into the book Mosse explains more about the heresy - the Cathars' believed that the world was created by the devil, and that by living a good life and 'making a good end' they would be reunited with God, if not, they would be reincarnated on earth.
The novel flows between past and present, one life echoing the other as the story unfolds. For Alice, the trouble begins when she falls into a mountain cave and finds two skeletons and an ancient ring with a labyrinth symbol, which other (fairly unscrupulous) people want to retrieve. For Alaïs, it begins when her father entrusts her with one of the three books that are required to summon the true grail.
Labyrinth is a Girl's Own story - a grail quest in which women are central to the action with the ability to change history. The villains, in both eras, are also women. As the story unfolds the title of the book comes into its own with twists and turns, memories to be retrieved and reclaimed, lovers' misunderstandings to be reconciled, fragments of the past to be reclaimed, and old betrayals to be revenged.
Mosse's novel is intelligently written with absorbing narrative. Her descriptions of the city of Carcassonne and the surroundings show her love of the area. Her research into the lives of the Cathars' is obvious and she shows a passion for the subject matter within a well constructed work of historic mystery and exotic locations providing a thrilling and memorable read.