Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
PhD candidate Isabel Henley, the narrator of Margaret's impressive if flawed debut, follows her older college chum, Rose Brewster, to Scotland's St. Stephens University, where she learns that the rock-star feminist scholar who was to be her thesis adviser has just died in a hiking accident. Flash forward a few months. Only the occasional outing with Rose or fantasizing about a broodingly handsome young lecturer relieves the lonely Isabel's immersion in the lives of 16th-century monarch Catherine de' Medici and her female court. Rose's subsequent disappearance puts Isabel on the trail of a priceless emerald legend claims was brought from Brazil to Italy by the subject of Rose's dissertation, Catherine's courtier Federico Falcone. As Isabel embarks on a high-stakes intellectual treasure hunt that will take her from the Falcone family's Genoese palazzo to archives in Florence and Paris, the author not only maintains suspense but makes the historical figures come vibrantly alive through their correspondence. Indeed, the contemporary characters pale by comparison, and a couple of key figures swing wildly between winningly seductive and sociopathic, particularly as dictated by the hairpin turns of the far-fetched denouement. Despite such speed bumps, however, readers will eagerly await Margaret's next. Agent: Jody Kahn, Brandt & Hochman. (Oct.)
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Trying to save an endangered friend, a young American historian rushes around Europe trying to uncover a link between the court of Catherine de' Medici and a priceless emerald from the New World. Isabel Henley leaps at the chance to continue her historical studies by joining the graduate program at St. Stephens in Scotland, far away from her estranged family and her married professor/lover in Boston. She's also eager to study with Madeleine Grangier, "French feminist extraordinaire," and reconnect with Rose Brewster, the "beautiful wunderkind" who set the bar for Isabel in college in both scholarship and social success. But when she arrives, she learns that Madeleine has just died in a fall, and while it's been written off as an accident, there are some who find her death suspicious. Isabel throws herself into the challenges of research--her topic is the women of Catherine de' Medici's court--and breaking into the department's social hierarchy. Rose welcomes her with open arms, and she finds herself drawn romantically to another professor. Then Rose goes missing, and a suicide note is discovered. Weeks later, Isabel finds a hidden recording from Rose that reports she is being held against her will and urges Isabel to take over her research into a little-known Renaissance-era Italian family that may have been the owners of a priceless emerald, current whereabouts unknown. This research takes Isabel to Genoa, Florence, and Paris, always with the sense that Rose's captors are breathing down her neck as she works desperately to uncover the mystery of the Falcone family and the emerald, unsure of whom to trust. There's an academic bent to the mystery; this one will appeal to lovers of Dan Brown and Elizabeth Kostova and other mysteries of old documents and historical figures. For lovers of history mysteries: a less robust Da Vinci Code, less complex The Swan Thieves. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.