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The Prisoner of Paradise


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The Tintoretto Code—wonderful plot and an innovative time travel mechanism, a step up the literature ladder from Dan Brown.

It begins excitingly, with dark characters lurking and arrows whizzing. Angelo Mascari meets his collaborator on the banks of a canal in Venice. But they are being pursued with rapiers and crossbows. His collaborator is struck down, but Angelo escapes, vowing to save his love, the married woman Isabella.

It is after hours in the Palazzo, and Director of Museums, Salvatore della Porta, pauses for a moment in the Great Council Room in front of Tintoretto’s Paradise, before entering through a hidden door.

Nick O’Connor is recovering from being hit in the head in a hockey injury. It's been two weeks since he had his stitches, and he’s with wife Julia, an art journalist and photographer, in Venice. But Nick experiences periodic bouts of… something — a woman in the painting is talking to him.

Enzo Paganelli studies a chart of dates and events, thinking of his twin sister, who had died two months before, hoping for a reconciliation with his estranged daughter. Paganelli is alone in the Chapter Room of the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. He opens a panel into a secret room. From the drawers of a Chinese apothecary cabinet he pulls out an iron key and a parchment.

The woman in the painting is talking again, and artist Carlo Zuccaro translates. She’s speaking in Venetian. Her name is Isabella Scalfini. Julia puts it down to Nick’s having bumped his head; however, people are following them, and she smells a scoop. In an abandoned cellar, Paganelli prepares a ritual.

The writing style is sophisticated. I was fated to like an author who uses adjectives like ‘fugacious’ and ‘biovular’. The plot is exotic and wonderful, with backstory woven in skilfully, revealing just enough to keep the reader interested. The middle section moves a bit slowly, but once Julia comes out of denial, the plot advances at an exciting pace, pausing from time to time only to catch up on this character or that. The characters are colourful and the dialogue believable. The frequent time shifts are deftly handled by using props; Renaissance-era clothing lets us know we’ve gone back in time; an LED alarm clock rings us into the present day.

This year I’ve read a few historical novels where the hero goes back in time into the body of some ancient person, and the device used here for the mechanics of the time travel is the most innovative I’ve seen.

If you liked Dan Brown well enough, but would like to move a step up the literature ladder, this is for you.

Reviewed by

Susie Helme is an American ex-pat living in London, after sojourns in Tokyo, Paris and Geneva, with a passion for ancient history and politics, and magic, mythology and religion. After a career in mobile communications journalism, she has retired to write historical novels and proofread/edit novels.

1589 A.D. - Republic of Venice

About the author

In addition to being a novelist, Rob Samborn is a screenwriter, entrepreneur and avid traveler. He’s been to forty countries, lived in five of them, and studied nine languages. From New York City and lived in Los Angeles for twenty years, he now lives in Denver with his wife, daughter and dog. view profile

Published on November 30, 2021

Published by TouchPoint Press

100000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Thriller & Suspense

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