A novel weaves the tale of a centuries-old mystery and an unsuspecting young woman who may be the key to solving it.
This story centers on a 20-something woman named Isa, who’s living a carefree, partying life in Paris when she’s summoned by her mother, Victoria, who has news too momentous to be shared over the phone. And she isn’t exaggerating: in the novel’s earliest pages, she reveals that she’s not actually Isa’s mother: her sister Mara is—and there’s more. Mara has just recently awoken from the coma she’s been in for two decades but is still very weak, and Victoria thinks mother and daughter should meet before it’s too late. The author adroitly positions these present-day episodes with a series of scenes set in increasingly remote periods of the past. Readers meet a younger version of Mara, working in a lonely museum in Transylvania, plagued by her remembrance of the events surrounding the disappearance of her father, a renowned archaeologist, memories that hint at a stunning secret discovery he’d made. And parallel scenes unfold in 1389 Tuscany and involve a bishop named Giovanni de’ Marignolli, who seems to be two-thirds fraud and one-third amnesiac. The action of the main plot kicks into gear when Isa is attacked by a mysterious assailant in her mother’s hospital. The intervention of an affable stranger named Mark Zweifer saves Isa, and the two proceed to try to solve the puzzle of what secret from Mara’s past would prompt a hired killer to take an interest in anything she might have to say upon awakening from her coma. Mark and Isa’s quest uncovers a vivid, twisting tale of Renaissance treachery, tarot cards, and a potentially explosive historical revelation. Nedelea’s fiction debut approaches this familiar The Da Vinci Code pattern with great scene-setting vigor, a natural-feeling grasp of dramatic pacing, and some fractious chemistry between Isa and Mark that’s no less entertaining for being intensely predictable. At one point, Isa asks him: “Are you really a weirdo, or are you just pretending to be one?” The well-orchestrated climax pulls together all the various plotlines with an enjoyable degree of flair.
A complex, engrossing archaeological thriller with a plot stretching over many eras.