Isle of the Dead by Alex Connor – Review

October 10, 2013 10:21 am

Alex Connor’s latest thriller, Isle of the Dead, sees conspiracy and murder surface because of a mysterious painting. When Gaspare Reni, art collector, and Nino Bergstrom, his adopted son, are presented with Titian’s painting of sixteenth-century murderer Angelico Vespucci, they are alarmed as to what it could mean. The rumour is that when the painting emerges, so will the man – when the painting’s finder is brutally murdered. Will Nino and his ageing friend be able to get to the bottom of the painting’s legend, or will it be too late for the victims?

The book market has become saturated with thriller novels that straddle two time zones, and I have to say that I expected more from Connor, whose debut The Rembrandt Secret achieved great success. Even though the plot is cleverly done and you do get the usual suspense and twists and turns that come with the genre, there was something missing from Isle of the DeadIsle of the dead

Perhaps it’s because I’ve read so many of these types of novels that I expected more. Alex Connor clearly has the art-knowledge prowess, being an artist herself, to pull off such a plot. Yet some sections of the novel felt over-dramatized and contrived. When we see the events of the novel through the killer’s eyes towards the end of the book, there was something almost cliché about the grotesque descriptions and disturbed mind-set of the murderer that destroyed any sense of reality. And, with hindsight, the mastermind behind the copycat murders is apparent from the beginning – something which makes the ending a bit of a let-down.

I also felt that the sections set in the sixteenth-century were almost irrelevant. The reader has no clear idea of who the speaker is until the last few pages, and even then the speaker is of little consequence. The novel would not have lost anything by omitting these pages.

Although Connor’s plot is cleverly woven together, the short, jumpy chapters were one of the biggest issues for me. I have no issue with short chapters, but when there is little consistency of perspectives from one chapter to the next, it is difficult to get wholly drawn in to the plot and its characters. Sections of the book are told from the perspective of almost every single character – again, something which diminishes the quality of the book for me. We are kept at a distance from the characters which straightaway loses any emotive connection with Isle of the Dead.

If, however, you are a fan of this style of fiction, the twisting plot itself will be enough to satisfy you. Not the best of the thriller novels on the market today, but still worth the read.

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