Published Jan 2010
It is winter in Amsterdam. At the Rijksmuseum’s research library, Ruth Braams is tracing the provenance of artworks looted by the Nazis when an old woman barges in and demands the return of a picture painted by her own eighteenth-century ancestor. She is told to go through the proper channels and hustled out. But Ruth’s curiosity is stung. The painting, she discovers, has an eerie wartime history – and the elderly Lydia is not the only claimant.
A chance encounter brings Ruth and Lydia together again. Gradually – through the old woman’s scatty revelations, the queer time capsule of her house, the esoteric inscriptions on the painting itself – a dark and disturbing tale is told, opening long-closed doors onto the past.
Why were the monsters behind the third Reich so keen on acquiring this second-rate oil for Hitler’s planned Fuhrermuseum in Linz? Who was the picture’s obscure creator? And who are the figures in the painting: a sleeping beauty on a couch; a shadowy male, his back to the artist, gazing mournfully out of a window? As Ruth peers closer at the microcosm of the painting, she plummets into a world of grasping ambition, blighted love and sexual opportunism, where art and occult science join forces to take a staggering leap into the future………….
A brilliant evocation of Amsterdam which combines fascinating historical detail with a cast of sharply realized characters – a fast-paced, finely crafted, riveting mystery.