An intricately woven plot with voices from the past give Swerling’s latest historical thriller an otherworldly aura.
Annie, a recovered alcoholic, has been hired by a Jewish foundation, spearheaded by a controversial and very wealthy man, to spend three months in London looking for evidence of an elusive historical figure known as the Jew of Holborn. She moves into a flat whose owner is visiting her son in another country and almost immediately is confronted by the ghost of a Carthusian monk in the back bedroom. Frightened and worried that the vision could be the result of hallucinations from years of drinking, Annie begins her research on specific ancient Jewish artifacts, all of which are holy to the Jewish people. In the meantime, Annie meets Geoffrey, a famous British television news personality, who joins forces to determine whether she is indeed on the right track to finding those artifacts, the Jew of Holborn and the identity of the monk who keeps appearing to her. But when Geoffrey introduces her to his mother, Maggie, a brilliant Jewish woman who worked as a codebreaker for England during World War II and was brought over at the beginning of the war as a child, both Geoffrey and Annie begin delving deeper into the Jew of Holborn and what they believe may be a code that will lead them closer to conspiracies both past and present. The author writes well, but readers have a lot to swallow when it comes to gullibility, particularly when no one who finds out about Annie’s ghostly visions, which only she can see, bats an eye. The story is also weighted down with so much historical minutiae that readers will both find themselves lost and wondering on occasion.
This latest effort by Swerling is nicely penned but also ponderous and overloaded with out-of-place sexual vernacular, an overabundance of detail, and a tired, evil Catholic Church conspiracy.