Title: The Rembrandt Secret
Author: Alex Connor
Page Count/Review Word Count: 553
I should start this review by mentioning the weird reason behind why I read this book in the first place – I have a friend called Alex Connor, and so when I saw posters for this book plastered along the London Underground, I knew I had to get a copy. I let it stew for a while, and a couple of years later I saw it in a charity shop – the rest, as they say, is history.
That said, while you might be quick to dismiss it as a Da Vinci Code rip-off, especially because of the title, it’s actually not that bad – in fact, I found it somehow more engaging than the Da Vinci Code, perhaps because it seems like there’s more talk and less action, which enables the author to flesh out her characters and make them seem real.
Broadly speaking, the story-line follows the son of a murdered art dealer as he tries to uncover the truth about his father murders, stirring up the hornets nest along the way. You see, it turns out that Rembrandt had a bastard, and he had the child’s mother sectioned to keep her away from him – the child, meanwhile, grew in to a prodigy, and he painted much of Rembrandt’s work for him.
As you can imagine, such a revelation would totally disrupt the art world – prices for Rembrandts would drop dramatically, and nobody would really know what to believe any more. So what if there was proof? Well, it just so happens that there is, and the novel follows Marshall as he tries to decide just what to do with it. In some ways, that causes a moral dilemma, because his father loved the art world and Marshall could bring it down almost single-handedly, if he wants to.
As always, I’m n0t going to risk spoiling the ending, but I can tell you that there’s a surprise in order when the mastermind of the murders is eventually revealed, and there are enough twists and turns throughout the novel to keep you guessing until the end. In fact, if anything, you could argue that the ending is too sudden, because it’s almost like one final twist in a series of twists, a subtle ending rather than a fanfare-blowing declaration that the author has ran out of paper.
My only real problem, though, is something that I’ve mentioned multiple times already – it’s simply very difficult to write about the Rembrandt Secret without somehow comparing it to the Da Vinci Code. I think that this novel could well be overshadowed by its predecessor, and that’s a shame because I, for one, preferred it. If you only read one of the two of them then you should read this for sure.
Final thoughts? One of my colleagues raised a good point, when he asked me if I’d prefer to read the real history of Rembrandt, rather than to read a fictional one. I’ve thought on it, and I’ve decided that I made the right choice – I was never in to paintings anyway, but if anything, I’m more in to them now. A non-fiction book would’ve scared me off – this was entertaining enough to keep me hooked.