What I’m reading: Dan Brown-style thriller that’s better than Dan Brown



Not a new paperback, one I missed previously, the first in a promisingly juicy series of conspiracy thrillers.

Finn Ryan, an art history student from Ohio, has two summer vacation jobs in New York: one as a nude model for a group of amateur artists, the other doing an inventory audit for a major art gallery. In the back of a drawer she comes across an unrecorded drawing of a dissected corpse that has all the hallmarks of Michelangelo. Within hours Finn’s boyfriend and the director of the gallery are both gruesomely murdered. Finn goes on the run with an antiquarian bookseller following links to a lost collection of looted Nazi art treasures. The Vatican-appointed assassin is hot on their heels.

The potboiler plot has some over-egged elements, such as the flashbacks to a convoy of trucks carrying the looted paintings at the end of WW2 and a provocative scandal involving Eugenio Pacelli, Pope Pius XII.

The title and the cover place Michelangelo’s Notebook firmly in the Dan Brown canon, although Paul Christopher writes a more elegant prose than Mr. Brown. The sheer pace and scale of the story have pleasing echoes of the rip-roaring Nicholas Cage National Treasure  movies.

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