Art restorer Giovanni Fabrizzi is haunted by an unsigned renaissance portrait. Obsessed to learn the truth of its origin, he becomes increasingly convinced the painting could be the work of one of history’s greatest artists, which if true, would catapult its value to the stratosphere. But in learning of the painting’s past, he is faced with a dilemma. He believes the portrait was stolen during the greatest art heist in history—the Nazi plunder of European artwork. If true and a surviving relative of the painting’s rightful owner were still alive, Giovanni, in all good conscience, would have to give up the potential masterpiece. His obsession with the portrait puts a strain on his new marriage, and his son thinks his father has lost his mind for believing an unremarkable, unsigned painting could be worth anyone’s attention. Regardless, Giovanni persists in his quest of discovery and exposes far more truth than he ever wanted to know.
Stephen Maitland-Lewis is an award-winning author, a British attorney, and a former international investment banker. He held senior positions in the City of London, Kuwait, and on Wall Street before moving to California in 1991. He owned a luxury hotel and a world-renowned restaurant and was also the Director of Marketing of a Los Angeles daily newspaper. Maitland-Lewis is a jazz aficionado and a Board Trustee of the Louis Armstrong House Museum in New York. A member of PEN and the Author’s Guild, Maitland-Lewis is also on the Executive Committee of the International Mystery Writers Festival.
His novel Hero on Three Continents received numerous accolades, and Emeralds Never Fade won the 2012 Benjamin Franklin Award for Historical Fiction and the 2011 Written Arts Award for Best Fiction. His novel Ambition was a 2013 USA Best Book Awards and 2014 International Book Awards finalist and won first place for General Fiction in the 2013 Rebecca’s Reads Choice Awards. Maitland-Lewis and his wife, Joni Berry, divide their time between their homes in Beverly Hills and New Orleans.
Going Back in Time
By Stephen Maitland-Lewis, author of Botticelli’s Bastard
If I could go back in time to anywhere, I would have a hard time choosing between two particular destinations. My first choice would be 1920-1929, and in the United States. The second, equally alluring, would be Venice during the Renaissance. For a very limited sojourn, of course. Perhaps for just one day and night!
The uniqueness of the city-state, the splendor of the views, the elegance of the couture, the joie de vivre of the population, the gastronomic brilliance, and the ability to meet with all manner of artists who became legendary old master painters, would make a visit to Venice at this time – the Renaissance – fascinating. One might meet Casanova over an aperitif, the Doge over pasta marinara, and Botticelli over Chianti, in any of the bars in Piazza San Marco.
A stay longer than 24 hours in the city-state of Venice, or anywhere for that matter during this time, would not be appealing to anyone who has been spoiled by the creature comforts of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Hot and cold running water, sanitation, refrigeration, communication, medication, safe drinking water, are all aspects of life that we now take for granted. It would be difficult to adjust, other than for a very short period, to a lifestyle without them.
Europe, pursuant to the First World War, was depressed as a result of the carnage, inflation, and general strikes. The United States – notwithstanding, or maybe because of prohibition – was alive with exciting music, Broadway, nightlife, and the emergence and expansion of the movie industry. For many, it was party time up until the Wall Street crash. I think I’d want to leave, however, on October 28th, 1929, before the events of “Black Tuesday” plunged the country, and the entire western hemisphere, into the depths of the Great Depression.
I think that anytime you can pick up a book and not really know whether or not you are going to like and start to read it and end up surprised, you’re holding a pretty good book! The author has a unique way of captivating the reader and incorporating several levels of intrigue. It’s a little different, but I think that most readers will be glad they took the time to step into a unique writing. It was a little difficult to find the right words to review, I don’t want to give away too much!