This novel has a little bit of everything — World War 2 era partisans, former Nazi soldiers, plundered religious artwork, spiritual mysticism, religion, love ... and more. The plot has more twists than a Chubby Checker concert.
Matthew Spear is the resident expert on Byzantine religious artwork at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. He's called on by the museum to evaluate the authenticity of a new icon that has come onto the market — owned by the lovely (and single!) Ana Kessler.
The icon is supposedly the Holy Mother of Katarini — an icon lost in the turmoil of World War 2 Greece. An icon that is allegedly imbued with supernatural healing powers.
Matthew is skeptical, but when he sees the icon himself, this changes. Then he learns his own family's connections with the icon — and it's theft from Greece. It is those connections that launch Spear into a web of international intrigue and danger, involving foreign governments, Nazi fugitives, and the Greek Orthodox church.
This is a tough book to put down. The action is nonstop, and the suspense is incredibly well done. You will need a scorecard for the characters in this book, to try to track their relations with each other. But don't even try to figure out who is on whose side, or what is exactly going on, because just when you think you have, Olson will pull the rug out from under you. Things are never as they seem, and you won't know the full story until the very end.
Several things endeared this book to me. One — the parallels to Grail legend. This story is almost a Grail story gone bad — think of a Grail story in which Lancelot is working for the Church, Gawain is working for Arthur, and the Black Knight thinks he's working for himself, but is really working for Merlin. And each of these men are fighting each other. Then the Black Knight betrays Merlin, but Merlin .......
That would be telling. Read the book.