It did not disappoint. The cover art is 'Leda' c.1832. Art is at the heart of this novel.
Robert Oliver is an extremely talented artist. When he attacks the painting 'Leda' in the National Gallery, no one can understand why. Oliver ends up in a psychiatric hospital with Dr. Andrew Marlowe assigned to his case. Marlowe himself paints for a hobby. Oliver refuses to speak, but continues drawing and painting - the same woman over and over again. Robert has in his possession a packet of letters from the late 1800's. They may hold the key to the mystery woman. Marlowe himself becomes obsessed, seeking out the women in Robert's past in an attempt to help Robert. But the search and the need for answers soon consume Marlowe as well.
The mystery is of course a large part of the plot, but Kostova's prose play just as large a part. Her language is beautiful and the letters from the 1800's completely capture the time, societal aspects and emotions of the painter Beatrice de Clerval -Vignot. The layers are subtly built, story upon story as we learn of both Robert and Beatrice's lives.
I listened to this in audio format. I was thrilled by the format Hachette Books used to produce The Swan Thieves. It is a full cast production with five readers. Treat Williams plays Marlowe. His voice is calm, modulated and perfectly portrays a psychiatrist. Anne Heche read as Robert's wife. At first I wasn't sure about this casting, but again, perfect for the part. Three other lesser known but perfectly cast actors rounded out the ensemble. One role is that of the French female painter from the 1800's. Once in a while I found myself thinking 'wascally wabbit' of her French accent, but this is only a very minor observation. It was like listening to a full radio play.
Those looking for a fast paced, suspenseful read would not enjoy this book. It is a slow, thoughtful listen, one to enjoy - which I did. I must confess though that I was somewhat disappointed by the ending, which after 17 hours of build up, was over in about 5 minutes. The mystery is solved, but the resolution with Robert was left wanting in my opinion.