THE ICON by Neil Olson


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Old enemies from the partisan warfare in WWII Greece bring their various lusts for an ancient Byzantine icon to New York City and Westchester.

Lots of double and triple crossings keep things moving in this first thriller from Olson, whose day job is agent to Big Literary Names. The action usually distracts from the clunky Old-Greek-Guys-in-Translation dialogue that fills the air when retired Hellenic intelligence agent Andreas Spyridis lands in Manhattan to spar for possession of an important artwork with his former ally in the resistance, Fotis Dragoumis. The adversaries are linked by more than their past: Andreas’s American grandson Matthew Spear, an up-and-coming curator at the Met, is Fotis’s godson, and Andreas’s son is married to Fotis’s niece. But the Old Guys trust each other not at all. There is too much bad blood from the war. Although they were allied against the Axis, they worked for different ends. They must, however, put their to-be-explained differences aside for the moment. The icon whose theft from their village church led to mass executions and the burning of the village is up for sale from the holdings of Herr Kessler, a shadowy collector recently deceased. Matthew Spear is supposed to negotiate purchase of the icon for the Met. His heritage and his surprisingly visceral reaction to the icon when it’s revealed, however, make him sympathetic to the desire of the Orthodox Church to repossess the work now held by Kessler’s attractive granddaughter Ana. Matthew also wonders whether the legendarily wonder-working icon could help his ailing father, a hope encouraged for his own reasons by Dragoumis. Ana agrees to accept a bid from the church that is less than the apparent market price of the artwork, but the church’s negotiator is a fake, and the icon promptly goes missing. Has Dragoumis somehow made off with it? Or was it snatched for the Nazi officer who lusted after it all those years ago in Greece? He may be in town on a visit from Argentina.

A passable debut with good scenery.

Pub Date: May 1st, 2005
ISBN: 0-06-074838-9
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2005


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