Review: The Caravaggio Conspiracy – Alex Connor.

caraHere’s the thing, I’ve never really read thrillers. When I see them on TV I find the web of links stretched and, well, a little unconvincing. But then – then I read The Caravaggio Conspiracy.

It’s 2014. A living descendant of Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, deemed the greatest Italian painter of his time, sets up a website to announce his lineage, and that he not only has proof, but knows where his two most ilusive and sought after works are hidden. Though they were long thought to be lost or destroyed, the art world can’t help but take interest. Two 400 year old classics are at stake.

At the same time, twin art dealers are found murdered, tortured and bound in their London gallery with a suspicious parallel to a dual murder in Berlin seven years earlier. The only man for the job? Gil Eckhart, the man who tackled the first case all those years before.

Leaving his heavily pregnant wife somewhat in the lurch to follow the clues, the story sprawls Berlin, Sicily, London, New York – the tight knit art world proving more bound than he could have imagined, more twisted and determined than even the most underhanded dealers could imagine. What is the source of their desire? Simply the paintings, to honour Caravaggio’s descendent, or to take him out so there’s no one to lay claim to the artwork once it’s located?

And it’s really enjoyable, because you get sucked in. It makes sense that a number of people would be the culprit, and man! The only issue is something that had to go hand in hand with the thriller: Gil’s accusations fly far and loud. Every time he meets up with a suspect he logically and critically explains their potential motives t and why he believes they could be the murderer. Though it makes sense, and he’s trying to call their bluff with reactions and trip ups in speech a lot of the time, you kind of will him to leave some mystery to those up for suspicion. You can almost picture the scene freeze framing on TV as he turns to the camera and explains his thought process.

It paints the art world as a dark and manipulative field, willing to do anything to steal a classic, and pick off their competitors along the way. The characters are diverse enough within their own clique to hold your interest, with the mental fragility of Luca being a constant edge to the plot, and the deceased ex-wife Holly being more bang for her buck than anyone would imagine.

The Caravaggio Conspiracy is one hell of a hectic week for the art world, and it unravels gradually and brilliantly. The chapter ends leave you in suspense, but doesn’t disappoint when it picks back up a few chapters down the line. Part of me thinks this will make me read more thrillers, but the other part thinks it’ll return to the TV cliches that turned me off them in the first place.

Either way – recommend! Draws you in, hook, line and sinker. (Side note: what a way to kick off my 2014 books!)

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