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The Apothecary's House Hardcover – 6 May 2005


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan (6 May 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405046570
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405046572
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 4.5 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,828,129 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Solid, trenchant writing' -- Crimetime

‘Elegant and witty novel’ -- Park & Holiday Homes magazine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

When an old woman storms into the Rijks Museum demanding the return of her painting, archivist Ruth Braams cannot quell her curiosity. Ruth delves into the history of the piece of looted Nazi art and discovers an enigmatic picture with a disturbing wartime provenance. It also appears that the elderly Lydia is not the only claimant and, against strict bureau regulations, Ruth endeavours to help strengthen her case. Days later, Ruth begins to receive sinister anonymous threats, warning her to stay away from Lydia and the painting. As the threats escalate, Ruth realises that there must be far more to the painting's popularity, and she enters into a series of increasingly lethal adventures as she investigates the painting's secret symbolism . . . A brilliant evocation of Amsterdam that combines fascinating historical detail with a cast of sharply realised characters - a fast-paced, finely crafted, riveting mystery. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Woodroffe on 4 Nov 2005
Format: Hardcover
This is Adrian Mathews's best novel to date. His handling of plot and suspense as well as his drole and lingusitically inventive style have matured beautifully, making this a most exciting and entertaining story in an Amsterdam evoked as if by someone who lives there and knows it intimately, which, extraordinarily Mathews does not. As with Vienna Blood, it is clear that the writer has done meticulous research on a whole range of subjects. And here he uncovers not only fascinating details about the looting and accumulation of art treasures by the Nazis in World War II but also takes us into the eighteenth-century world of an artist who - I don't want to spoil the plot - is way ahead of his time. The discovery of his papers - invented, written and presented by the novelist - and the background intrigue they reveal are, for me the most remarkably gripping pages Mathews has ever written. The main plot that holds the whole edifice together is in a modern setting - for Mathews may be an accomplished historian but he also has a very fine eye for contemporary detail. Though I sometimes had trouble identifying with his female heroine, one has to admire the challenge Mathews gave himself in choosing a female protagonist for a change - and she is indeed a most original character.
I was impatient to turn the pages of this long novel and found the climax both unexpected and satisfactory. What curbed my impatience to read fast, however, was the inventiveness of Mathews's descriptions and the expressions his narrator and his characters use; the sort one wants to file and use oneself one day. It is novel too that taught me something, made me think and made me laugh. All that and a veritable Ali-Baba's cave of language treasures too. A pity the title and dust jacket are not nearly as attractive as the contents of the book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. Cohen on 27 April 2006
Format: Paperback
The wording on the front of this book makes you think that it's going to be along the lines of the Da Vinci Code: " A looted painting, a secret code, a deadly pursuit...", but this is not another paint by numbers art thriller.

Firstly, this is a long book, at 700 pages. Don't let that put you off, the language is flowing and easy to read, so it did not take me long to get through the whole thing. The entire book is set in one city and time is taken to get to know the characters,especially Ruth Braams, who works as an art researcher. Ruth grows and changes as a character throughout the story, which gives the book a real depth.

I would have liked a little more adventure and some editing of some of the more long winded sections where nothing happens.

All in all, a good read, but beware of the misleading cover.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dora Brown on 28 Nov 2007
Format: Paperback
I chose to read this novel because the blurb appealed to me. However, I found it very irritating to read mainly because of the atrocious dialogue between the characters. It seemed to be straight out of a 1930's Hollywood B movie. No one speaks like that. I found the character of the heroine unrealistic and annoying. I really didn't care what happened to her. The other characters lacked credibility also. The plot, however, was not bad involving Second World Wartime secrets, an 18th century painting, a love affair and alchemy. I persevered with the novel, but it certainly didn't enthrall me.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By J. Collins on 30 Dec 2005
Format: Hardcover
I very much enjoyed this book but it almost seemed as though there were two writers at work here. A contemporary author and one from a 1930's "noir" style detective novel. The main character spoke with a "tough dame" style of lingo but only at certain times. How odd indeed ??? I did feel compelled to plough on regardless of the jumbled writing styles. A very interesting premise and also very descriptive in regards to Amsterdam canal houses. Somehow I get the feeling that men will enjoy this book more then women. Prove me wrong !!!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Mr. Peter Steward TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 14 Mar 2008
Format: Paperback
At the end of over 700 pages, I was left with just one thought - So What!

Firstly this book took about three attempts before I could get through it. I decided to persevere as certain sections went at a reasonable pace. Overall the storyline should have leant itself to about 300 pages. Some of the other 400 odd were turgid to say the least and certain sections were just plain silly.

At no time did I care for the characters and I found the author's attempts to inject humour, historical data or scene setting rather banal. It takes skill to wander away from the main thread of the story and sadly that is a skill Mr Mathews doesn't possess.

The storyline is reasonable. An old lady lays claim to a rather strange painting, but there is another claimant and it soon becomes obvious that the two know each other. The painting has a history far and away beyond its relevance as a work of art.

The book blurb tells us that the main character receives sinister and anonymous threats. Again at times these just border on the outright silly. The book can't decide whether it wants to be a code cracker or an adventure story and it drops sadly between the two.

The dialogue at times is dreadful. When you have a main character who makes such exclamations as " Jumping Jehosophat, " "Holy hollyhocks" and "take a hike you scurvy varlet" you know you really are in la la land. Other parts of the dialogue are also corny in the extreme and when the "plot" is unravelled it really comes as no surprise and leaves more of an empty feeling than one of achievement and contentment.

Still I suppose that if you like slow paced thrillers where the ending can be seen from a million miles, this could be the one for you.
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