Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Rembrandt's Ghost - Paul Christopher



Rembrandt’s Ghost
Paul Christopher
Signet

Thriller

After her adventures in Egypt, detailed in THE LUCIFER GOSPEL, Fiona (Finn) Ryan has settled into a job at a very stuffy auction house in London. She thought she’d be using her education there, but, as it turns out, she’s the token American hired to deal with other Americans. Her main duties seem to be more along the lines of auction hostess than art expert. Which explains why, when a man wearing a Harvard sweatshirt appears at the auction house, asking for someone to authenticate a painting that’s been in the family forever, the receptionist sends him to Finn.

After their meeting, Finn’s boss appears in her office, completely livid that “His Grace” had been there and only talked to Finn. This is pretty much the last straw for Finn, and by almost mutual consent the employment arrangement is terminated. Arriving home, she finds a letter from a lawyer, asking her to attend a meeting the following day. To her surprise, Harvard, who she now knows is a duke of something-or-other, is also there. The duke, who initially introduced himself simply as Billy Pilgrim, admits that his great-aunt is Queen Elizabeth, but he’s not much for formality.

The lawyer drops a bombshell on both Finn and Billy. It seems that Billy’s cousin, an adventurer, left instructions that if he disappeared for a year, the lawyer should make certain bequests to Finn and Billy. Why Finn? Well, because this cousin seems to believe that he’s Finn’s biological father. The cousin, part of a huge shipping empire, has left three assets to Finn and Billy, jointly: a cargo ship, a house in Amsterdam, and a Rembrandt. The Rembrandt is quickly judged to be a fake, but there’s something else under the paint. It’s a clue to the location of a long-lost treasure. And Billy and Finn aren’t the only ones who want to find it.

As an adventure story and thriller, this novel works quite well, particularly if you’re willing to suspend a certain amount of disbelief. The name Billy Pilgrim (see: SLAUGHTERHOUSE FIVE) was distracting to me early on, but once I let go of that, I was able to lose myself in the rollicking international adventure. The pace is very fast, the dialogue entertaining, and the various locations nicely detailed. From England to the South China Sea, you’ll feel like you’re traveling with Finn and Billy as they track down the clues.

Rating: 7 ½
July 2007
ISBN# 978-0-451-22175-9 (paperback)

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