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The Apothecary's House Paperback – 7 Apr 2006

3.7 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Paperback, 7 Apr 2006
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Product details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Pan; New edition edition (7 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0330441604
  • ISBN-13: 978-0330441605
  • Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 4.5 x 17.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,119,051 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

'Solid, trenchant writing' -- Crimetime

‘Elegant and witty novel’ -- Park & Holiday Homes magazine

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

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

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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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I quite enjoyed this book, however after all the suspense, the discoveries about the painting, the affect on each life connected to it. The ending just fizzled out, those left were still alive and that was about all. Just felt left in limbo without a satisfactory ending, like the ideas had run out, like the subject had been explored enough and boredom had stepped in.
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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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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Very mixed book. The dialogue is excruciatingly awful, as is the tiresome 'Hey, ain't we so cool, always cracking these whip-smart jokes' relationship between Ruth (main character) and her colleague Myles. Far too Hollywood 1930s black-and-white movies. There are undeveloped characters galore: Jojo, the two cops, the bloke called Driest (who - wait for it - dries out Ruth's barge), Ruth's in-laws, the villain, the red-herring might-be villain, and Ruth's deceased boyfriend - to name a few. Either the author did a huge amount of research or he lifted portions of the historical and technical background direct from some of the sources he lists in the Acknowledgements section. The passages from Johannes van der Heyden's letters are awkward, partly because of the faux olde-worlde language (the more so since they are supposedly in Dutch) and because as literary devices go they're a clunky way to unravel a key mystery at the heart of the story. I couldn't help feeling that what the book lacked most was a good editor who could have pushed the author to sharpen everything up - and lose about 200 pages along the way. There's a good book trying to get out here.
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By Peter Steward TOP 500 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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