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Monday 7 October 2013

‘Isle of the Dead’ by Alex Connor

Published by Quercus,
23 May, 2013.
ISBN: 978-0857389640

Isle of the Dead is the tale of a sixteenth century conspiracy and a modern day murder. Legend has it that when the long- lost Titian painting of Angelico Vespucci, a notorious Venetian murderer re-appears, the man himself will come back to life to recommence his ghastly work. For he was no ordinary serial killer, but one who delighted in torturing his victims by flaying them alive.

So is it a coincidence that the woman who discovers the painting is found shortly afterwards, having suffered the same fate as women hundreds of years before? Or that the flayed bodies of other young women start to appear on the anniversary of the deaths of Vespucci's victims?

Washed up art dealer Gaspare Reni doesn't think so. Nor does Johnny Ravenscourt, a wealthy friend of the first victim who is also obsessed with the legend. Seemingly desperate to find out the truth he hires Gaspare's friend Nino Bergstrom to conduct his own investigation but Nino starts to suspect Johnny himself may know more than he lets on...

Meanwhile the ruthless art dealers circle, vying to find the priceless painting stolen from Gaspare's studio. How far would they go to claim it? And are any of them - the macho Triumph Jones, the determined Farina Ahmadi or the disturbed Jobo Kido - involved in the murders, whose publicity is increasing interest in the portrait, and by extension, its value?

As the murderer taunts our detective, Nino realises that the clock is ticking to save the next victim...

This is a depraved tale where history and the present day merge into one and where the basest aspects of humanity - such as competitiveness, ruthlessness, and desire for sex and money - contribute to a horrifying set of circumstances where evil can flourish.

With unforeseen plot twists, a good number of credible suspects and the action played out over different continents, this could be an overwhelming amount of information but the author expertly keeps the reader engaged by drip feeding information - and not a small amount of red herrings! - at a reasonable rate throughout the book. Even in the last few chapters, there are unanticipated revelations, making the reader feel confident in the author's ability to stay one step ahead the whole time. Alex Connor is definitely one to watch.
Reviewer: Joanna Leigh

Alex Connor  is also known as Alexandra Connor, and has written a number of historical sagas under this name. She has had a variety of careers including photographic model, personal assistant to a world famous heart surgeon, and working in a Bond Street art gallery. Having always had an intense interest in the history of art, Alex – who has previously written historical novels and non-fiction – is now concentrating on writing conspiracy thrillers set in the art world. She is listed in Debrett’s “People of Today” and is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Joanna Leigh studied French and German at university. She works in the aerospace industry and is a chartered marketer in the UK. She describes herself as a voracious reader, enjoying genres as varied as crime thrillers, historical fiction and autobiographies. Joanna lives in London. She is the daughter of crime thriller writer Leigh Russell.

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