When a young man from Palermo announces on the internet that he is a descendent of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio and that he knows the whereabouts of two missing masterpieces, the art world is whipped into a frenzy. However, it’s not until two art dealer brothers are brutally tortured and murdered in their gallery in London that detective Gil Eckhart realises it might be time to come out of retirement.
Tracing his footsteps back to a case he worked on in Berlin where a husband and wife were murdered in exactly the same way, Eckhart must work quickly to catch the killer as a group of art dealers, with a secret to keep, lie and cheat in their greedy quest to obtain the lost paintings. London, Berlin, New York, and Palermo: Eckhart finds himself travelling the globe, questioning everyone, trusting no one, and realising where he thought was friendship, was only deceit and fear.
All of the dealers are suspects, but one by one they are being murdered. Will Gil catch the killer who eluded him seven years earlier, the killer who is always one step ahead, the killer who leaves a trail of bloody corpses for him to find? Time will tell, and Gil only has a week to figure it out.
I’m not going to lie; when I received this book in the post to review, looking at the uninspiring cover, I was a tad disappointed. Not being a massive art aficionado or a murder mystery lover, I wasn’t sure how this book would appeal to me but, wanting to give a fair review, I tried to read it with an open mind. Thankfully, I was actually pleasantly surprised.
The novel is fast-paced and the atmosphere is tense from the get-go with the stench of fear pervading every page. The story is full of interesting and rich, realistic characters that you really believe, with Gil being so much more than just the typical reluctant detective. The book is quite addictive and so, in the beginning, I was a bit put out that there were so many characters to keep track of (each having their own chapter along the way) but the more you read, the more you realise how integral they are to the plot, which couldn’t really function without each of them.
However, the novel’s true triumphs are its chapters following Caravaggio himself in 1608. After his obsession with prostitute, Fillide Melandroni, provokes him to accidently murder his love rival, he flees Rome in fear, hunted and wounded from an attempt on his life. Feverish and in intense pain, he paints glorious canvases in return for forgiveness and begs for a pardon which may never come.
These moments are exciting, tragic and, above all, true. Caravaggio was a passionate and violent man: a lover, a murderer, a genius. That’s why, in this book, I could have done with a lot more of him.