I’m always happy when I discover an author new to me. As I said on Monday in my response to The Antiquarian, I stumbled across Sánchez’s work on NetGalley and requested a copy of this novel. I received a copy of The Art Restorer from the publisher and received no compensation for my honest opinion.
Whereas in the first novel of this series, The Antiquarian, Sánchez completely sold me on his writing and story telling, this novel fell a little short. The story was still fascinating and excellently written, how the story was told bordered a bit too much on the Hollywood/Dan Brown scale. However, I can’t decide if this is a part of Sánchez’s writing style for the story within this story, or if it is something that happened in his own processes.
It’s really hard to explain, but both novels are about a writer, Enrique Alonso, who is writing a novel that shares the same title as Sánchez’s novel. The characters experience the thrill/mystery as it happens at the same time Alonso writes about the actions. It’s not quite a prediction/foreshadowing novel, but Alonso’s abilities to solve the “real life” mysteries/thrills through writing the novels is convoluted and intertwined. You read bits and pieces of the various novels/historical writings so it’s very confusing to explain, but surprisingly easy to follow while reading it. If you add in that Sánchez’s two novels, recently translated, share titles and Sánchez shares a story (breaking into the US market) with Alonso, it just sounds even crazier, but honestly they’re well written!
What’s great about these novels is that Sánchez takes us through Alonso’s writing process, and what I can only assume is his own writing process. The constant fact checking and historical research are great and add an incredibly depth to the novels that I feel Dan Brown’s novels are often missing. I’m not sure if a lot of this stems from the fact Alonso is still a developing writer and is younger and Robert Langdon is an old hat at these things and a tenured professor, but who knows.
“In keeping with the custom of all my novels, part of the events described are based on a true story. I leave it to the reader’s imagination and investigative ability to discover which are real, and which are fictitious.” (Introduction)
I will say, without revealing any details, this ending was a bit more happy-ever-after than the first novel. However, I was definitely miffed at the ending. Did what I think happened happen? Will there be a third novel? I almost prefer when each novel wraps up succinctly but could still tie into another novel (like the first), but in this case it could be a lead into a different sort of novel, or at least (hopefully) a long section saying what happened to certain characters!
Recommendation: This one wasn’t as strong as The Antiquarian, but it definitely had more suspense and thrills, which were both a detraction and an addition to the work as a whole. I was glad to delve back into Barcelon and San Sebastián, and was even okay with the New York City/Paris additions. I should definitely check out more of Sánchez’s work as it becomes available in English.
Opening Line: “‘There it is.’ Enrique murmured these three simple words.”
Closing Line: “Bety opened the little box, and the shine from the most exquisite cut diamond imaginable reflected off her face, flooding her office and her heart with light. – San Sebastián, October 13, 2012” (Whited out.)