Connor, Alex - 'The Rembrandt Secret'
THE REMBRANDT SECRET is Alex Connor's first attempt at crime fiction, although she has previously written a number of historical novels. It is a truly superb book! You can tell that the author has an enormous amount of knowledge regarding the art world, given the wonderful amount of factual detail that she gives us. The clever way in which fiction and fact are woven together in this book makes it compelling reading. I enjoyed every single page and was completely caught out by the wonderfully surprising ending.
Marshall Ziegler is horrified to discover that his father, Owen, a successful and well-respected art dealer in London, has fallen into severe financial difficulties. His worries do not end there though, as, soon after this revelation, his father is murdered and left hanging from the beams in the cellar of his gallery. Marshall finds his father's body and soon finds out things about his father that make him extremely uncomfortable.
Many years before, it seems, Owen Ziegler had come across some very old letters, that were supposedly written by Rembrandt's housekeeper, and one-time lover, Geertje Dircx. She had been cruelly thrown into prison after Rembrandt had taken another lover and she wrote the letters to settle a few scores. The letters contained damning information about Rembrandt and the illegitimate son that he had with Geertje. Apparently it was the son, not the father, who produced many of the paintings that went on to be acclaimed as Rembrandt originals and, what's more, the letters even contained a list of the paintings that were fakes. Owen Ziegler, himself the proud owner of a Rembrandt, had had the letters authenticated and then the rumours started flying and the killings began. Anyone who had anything to do with the letters was no longer safe - as Owen discovered to his cost.
Marshall sets out to get to the bottom of this mess and is soon a target himself. Everyone is a suspect and it is impossible not to try to guess who the guilty party might be. The fast-paced action in the book keeps your attention firmly focused, and the identity of the killer, when it is revealed, is a complete surprise. Not only that, the twist at the end is totally unexpected and completely awesome. Highly recommended.
Amanda C M Gillies, Scotland