A bookish librarian encounters danger and intrigue when he sets out in search of a lost Renaissance masterpiece rumored to possess strange powers, in Masello’s latest novel (Blood and Ice, 2009, etc.).
When the often veiled, recently widowed and extraordinarily wealthy Kathryn Van Owen approaches librarian and renaissance scholar David Franco with an opportunity to find a long-missing silver mirror made by the Florentine artist Cellini, she goes out of her way to make the search worth David’s while. First of all, there was the money—$1 million upon return of the mirror. There was also vague talk about how she, a generous donor to the library where Richard works, could help him secure a promotion. But what really intrigued David was Mrs. Van Owen’s suggestion that the mirror could somehow be used to cure David’s beloved sister, who is dying of cancer. At Mrs. Van Owen’s fervent urging, and using her considerable bankroll, David sets out immediately for Florence to pick up the trail. He meets Olivia, a spirited Florentine tour guide and scholar, who has a bad reputation among the Florentine scholarly set for her radical theories concerning the Nazis and their interest in the occult. The two join forces, and soon realize that they are not the only ones interested in the mirror, and that others are willing to kill in order to retrieve it—or protect its secrets. Interspersed with the chapters following David’s search are chapters which follow the artist Cellini’s involvement in the story, from the creation of the mirror, to the discovery of its powers by his favorite model, to his eventual trouble with Pope Paul, which led to the mirror’s loss. While the post–Da Vinci Code bookstore and/or library is bursting with novels about ancient secrets imbedded in renaissance art, this book is a few notches better than most, thanks to its crisp prose and drum-tight plotting. In addition to its taut story, there is an impressive amount of scholarship, and enough detail to please art lovers or history buffs.
Great writing and rich detail combine for a gripping read.