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on 6 November 2011
Describe a book as this one has been immediately caught my attention. Former nun Carmen Leon has been privy to much information over the years and with others has pieced together information that suggests the role of Jesus was quite different to the one the Church tells us he played historically. She is one of a group that believes Renaissance artists knew of the real history of Jesus, John the Baptist and Mary Magdalene and used a secret code to reveal the truth in their paintings. She is now ready to impart what she has learnt to art student niece Sophie, and the two travel round Europe so Carmen can illustrate her point.

The book contains a number of images to help illustrate what Carmen explains, and this is one of the rare occasions when I wish the kindle was in colour as the images lost a lot in grey and white. However I felt they still showed enough to work, and sufficient information was included to allow the reader to look them up online if they were so inclined.

I quite liked The Da Vinci Code, enjoy art, and books with a religious bent and an element of historical fiction always go down well with me. I found I really enjoyed the story and the retelling of the lives of the three major figures in particular. Carmen presents an interesting figure and setting the story by having her explain her discoveries to her niece allowed the author to progress it step by step for the reader too. I didn't particularly feel a connection with either of them but this is so plot-driven it wasn't a concern to me.

There were a couple of negatives however. Firstly there were a few typos and in some places the author has used words that just didn't seem right, and I found myself slightly lost as to what he was trying to convey and wondering whether he really meant to use a similar word instead. Secondly, this is the first in a series, and while I would definitely love to read the second book I didn't like the way this ended. It finished on a cliffhanger but it didn't feel like the women had achieved a particular thing or had come to a significant point in their journey when that cliffhanger presented itself. It just lacked the sort of impact or sense of conclusion I'd expect. This is a criticism I have levelled at other books that have formed part of a series, and while I appreciate how hard it must be for an author to divide material and choose where to split from one book to the next I think they need to bear the reader's experience in mind and consider that each may well be read on its own too.

Despite the criticisms I really enjoyed this book and found it a stimulating read without being too heavy.
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on 17 August 2011
This is an interesting book which ponders whether Renaissance artists worked to a secret code when creating their masterpieces. This in itself is not a new notion - there is a wealth of material available as to what the great artists of the day may or may not have been trying to tell us - an idea which has been so succesfully exploited by Dan Brown in "The Da Vinci Code" for example.

However where this book differs is that it reflects on these ideas by revisiting and retelling the story of Jesus, John the Baptist, and Mary Magdalene, through the discovereies and musings of the characters Sophie and Carmen Leon, as they travel through the museums and ancient buildings of Rome. It is also beautifully illustrated with the masterpieces in question (which saves the reader the trouble of madly looking up the image to see what the characters are talking about). If you are familiar with Rome you will recognise the places they visit and the things they experience, which is very nice (if not you can armchair travel quite comfortably).

Where this book has weakness, is simply that it is, in some areas, too descriptive. It could, in my opinion, do with a seriously good edit, as sometimes less is more, and there are occasions where my attention drifted. However it travels along at a considerable pace and is informative - if you are a fan of elaborate explanations this is definitely the book for you. It is entertaining, challenging, keeps the reader engaged and above all the characters of Sophie and Carmen are likeable and believable.

I believe it is the beginning of a series; it will be interesting to see where it is going.
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