Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bristol House by Beverly Swerling

In modern-day London, architectural historian and recovering alcoholic Annie Kendall hopes to turn her life around and restart her career by locating several long-missing pieces of ancient Judaica. Geoff Harris, an investigative reporter, is soon drawn into her quest, both by romantic interest and suspicions about the head of the Shalom Foundation, the organization sponsoring her work. He’s also a dead ringer for the ghost of a monk Annie believes she has seen at the flat she is subletting in Bristol House.

In 1535, Tudor London is a very different city, one in which monks are being executed by Henry VIII and Jews are banished. In this treacherous environment of religious persecution, Dom Justin, a Carthusian monk, and a goldsmith known as the Jew of Holborn must navigate a shadowy world of intrigue involving Thomas Cromwell, Jewish treasure, and sexual secrets. Their struggles shed light on the mysteries Annie and Geoff aim to puzzle out—at their own peril.

This riveting dual-period narrative seamlessly blends a haunting supernatural thriller with vivid historical fiction. Beverly Swerling, widely acclaimed for her City of Dreams series, delivers a bewitching and epic story of a historian and a monk, half a millennium apart, whose destinies are on a collision course.

Bristol House starts with Annie Kendall being hired to look for the man who distributed Jewish artifacts in France and Germany in Tudor times; these were rumored to have been taken by the Templar Knights from Jerusalem.  Annie sees a ghost of a monk (Dom Justin) in her rented apartment.  He is identical to a man she has just met, Geoff Harris.  At first she doesn’t want anything to do with the ghost, but as her search for the artifacts continues she realizes he is helping her find them. 

Dom Justin tells his story from “The Waiting Place”.  He tells of spying for Thomas Cromwell on the monks in his orderof how he met and helped Giacomo the Lombard and his daughter Rebecca.  Dom Justin also tells of how he fell in love with Rebecca and in one moment of weakness gave way to his feelings.  When Thomas Cromwell finds out about this betrayal he orders the executions of all three.  They go on the run and hide in the tunnels where the Templar Knights hid their treasures.  We find out from Dom Justin and Giacomo that what happened in Tudor times affects what happens in modern day. 

Annie and Geoff work with his mother (Maggie) and her friend Rabbi Simon Cohen.  They were code breakers during WWII.  With their help Annie and Geoff find the clues to a mystery that is 500 years old.  During this time Annie also finds the strength and happiness that she has always needed.  I’m hoping that Beverly Swerling will do a prequel to this book.  I would love to see Maggie and Simon’s story! 

Bristol House is a great book and a wonderful ride, I loved it!!!  What started out as a search for these artifacts turns into a great suspense thriller/murder mystery, with a bit of a ghost story, historical fiction and romance woven in for good measure 

*I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  Stephanie

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The old grey donkey, Eeyore stood by himself in a thistly corner of the Forest, his front feet well apart, his head on one side, and thought about things. Sometimes he thought sadly to himself, "Why?" and sometimes he thought, "Wherefore?" and sometimes he thought, "Inasmuch as which?" and sometimes he didn't quite know what he was thinking about.

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