THE LOST MADONNA by Isabelle Holland


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Though considerably brighter than last year's enervating Counterpoint (thanks largely to an Italian-castle setting and the tart tongue of 28-year-old narrator Julia Winthrop), Holland's new contemporary gothic is again more sluggish than her best--with suitors, psychic dreams, tarot cards, and murders inching along all too predictably. American-born Julia, assistant at acerbic Rupert Carmichael's London art gallery, hurries to Italy--along with family-museum curator Oliver-when she learns that her rich stepgrandmother Gianetta has died in a tall. But once at the family castle, which is full of houseguests (including, soon, Rupert and Julia's ex-lover David), Julia has psychic visions and horrible dreams which suggest that Gianetta died via foul play. The police soon confirm these suspicions, and then another body turns up: that of Ricardo, revolutionary grandson of Gianetta's longtime maid Maria. Was Gianetta killed by terrorists? Or maybe by waspish Rupert (with whom Julia, frightened in her haunted room, is platonically sharing a bedroom)? Furthermore: should Julia give in to David--who wants her back? Or to suddenly passionate Oliver--whom she has loved, unrequited, for ten years? And what about a missing will. . . and a missing priceless madonna which should be hanging in the family chapel? The unsurprising answers lie in the tarot cards (""My heart sped up its thump, thump"")--and in 30 pages of ho-hum explanations--while Julia winds up, of course, with suitor #3: her verbal sparring partner Rupert. Repetitious and slow-moving, with a heroine who washes out after a strong start; but undemanding gothic-readers will find an ample supply of secret passages, shadowy figures, and thump-thumping hearts.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Rawson, Wade--dist. by Atheneum