This fifth installment in the entertaining saga of 15th-century merchant Nicholas van der Poele (Scales of Gold, 1992, etc.) takes the 29-year-old bank owner to Scotland, the Tyrol, Italy, and Egypt in passionate pursuit of his errant wife and her infant son. When last seen, Niccolo had returned triumphant from Africa, content at last with the wisdom received from a beloved spiritual teacher and the devotion of Gelis, his beautiful, courageous bride. Upon arriving at his headquarters in Bruge, however, the young entrepreneur learns that the news is not all good: His spiritual advisor has been murdered in his absence; and on their wedding night, Gelis announces that she's pregnant by Niccolo's greatest enemy -- his unacknowledged father, Simon de St. Pol. Crowing that she betrayed Niccolo to punish him for his role in her sister's death, Gelis retreats to a series of convents to give birth to the child and watch to see what Niccolo will do. She's not surprised when, having recovered from his shock, he responds with typical guile -- creating a complex scheme to destroy Simon and punish Gelis while claiming their innocent offspring as his own. Niccolo charms the noblemen of Scotland into helping him destroy Simon's land, develops a handy talent for divination among the silver mines of the Tyrol, and then takes flight for Egypt in a deadly game of cat and mouse with his determined and manipulative wife. Much scheming, battling, political maneuvering, and -- most agreeably -- a great deal of witty conversation ensues before Gelis and Niccolo hold their final confrontation among the Carnival masks of Venice. Will these two strong souls find common ground and brace themselves for a wedded life to come? Another rousing, utterly convincing adventure -- and still, after more than 3,000 pages on Niccolo's life, readers are bound to ask for more.