Saturday, July 14, 2018

Book Review: 'The Da Vinci Cloth (Tom Arden Book 2)' by Hugo Uyttenhove

Belgium born author Hugo Uyttenhove now lives in the US where he earned his PhD in System Science from Binghamton University. He obviously loves art and history and holds a particular passion for Flemish and Dutch paintings. His novels to date are GRAND LARCENY: THE HEIST OF THE FLEMISH PRIMITIVES, REMBRANDT REDUX (both of which have become screenplays) and now THE DA VINCI CLOTH (Tom Arden Book 2). H e now lives in North Carolina.

Hugo brings his art dealer Tom Arden he introduced in REMBRANDT REDUX and enhances his character in this new fascinating art history mystery admixed with contemporary political overtones. In his Author’s Note he states, ‘In the shadows of our society we occasionally discover that there are those who lurk patiently until there’s an opportune moment to strike in a unique and unexpected manner in the name of God. Western countries fear the radicalization by persons who claim affinity for a new and vibrant caliphate such as the one declared by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, also known as ISIL. This novel portrays the caretaker’s changing role with the self-declared caliphate as a backdrop while he clings to the utopian belief in the rebirth of the Ottoman Empire, itself one of the last caliphates. A legend, which claims that in 1481 da Vinci took a large lace cloth from Lefkara in Cyprus to the Duomo in Milan where it was used as an altar cloth, has never been proved nor disproved. However, an intriguing fact remains that, if the cloth contained a message, the rulers of the Ottoman Empire would have known that it referred to their newly-conquered island, and a secret buried there. Revealing it at a well-chosen time in the future would have political and religious consequences.’

Hugo takes these sparks of history, transforms them alchemically into a brilliant novel and out comes The Da Vinci Cloth. He opens his mystery in 1974 in Cyprus and after a fine battle scene the story moves to contemporary New York. The synopsis serves the outline of the plot well – ‘Tom Arden, an associate curator at the Met in New York, uncovers a partially painted riddle on a cloth in a painting. He sets off on a quest in search of the original cloth. As non-committal as Tom is in his personal relationship with his fiancée and a detective friend, he is overly devoted in his desire to prove that solving the riddle will lead him to treasure and promotion. Subsequently, Tom must confront a Muslim zealot who is the caretaker of secrets of the Sultans and prepares for the rebirth of the Ottoman Empire in the form of a new Caliphate. It isn’t until Tom elicits advice and help from a friend and his fiancée that he discovers the hidden secret. However, the find is both upsetting and rewarding as it brings to light the conceit perpetrated for centuries by religious leaders. Historical settings include Cyprus, Turkey, and Milan, with references to the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus and its consequences.’

Tense, character driven, endlessly fascinating admixture of art and intrigue, this is a book that is fully ready to become a film. Highly Recommended for lovers of art and history and mystery. Grady Harp, July 18

This book is free to borrow from Kindle Unlimited

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.