This book has all the ingredients needed for a great mystery/thriller: history, intrigue, conspiracy, heartbreak, action and suspense. It may sound contrived or mundane to say that a book is a “page-turner” and that one “couldn’t put it down”, but it really is true of ‘The Lover’s Portait’. Set in Amsterdam, t’s a well-designed, fabulous historical puzzle, solved decades later by someone who has no intention of becoming a detective; rather, it is through her dogged commitment to the truth that she uncovers the answers. The author has woven together a number of compelling plot lines to construct her own work of art. It is free of gratuitous violence and sex, making it suitable for Young Adult audiences as well as older readers.
The story moves at a great pace, keeping the reader fully engaged in Zelda’s quest for the truth. The characters are well-developed and very believable. Zelda, as the main protagonist, is flawed and realistic, while the antagonist is both intelligent and cold-hearted, and is therefore very easy to dislike. This is paralleled in the ‘historical’ characters in the story: the protagonists are likeable and genuine, both oppressed for different reasons, while the author has very effectively characterised their NAZI antagonist as cruel and vindictive through his own motivations and actions without resorting to any typecasting or cliche. Throughout the novel, the author succeeds in using the natural empathy of the reader to drive their interest and engagement in the characters and plot without the reader being aware of any such positioning.
As the novel draws to a close, Anderson pulls the various story lines together into a neat and satisfying conclusion, albeit tinged with sadness and regret.
5 stars for ‘The Lover’s Portrait’.
Read it. You’re sure to enjoy this fantastic book.