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Llewellyn, Caroline.

New York, Scribners, 1988. 311pp. cloth. $22.95. ISBN 0-684-18921-6. Distributed by Collins.

Reviewed by Katherine Wallis

Volume 17 Number 1
1989 January

The Masks of Rome, a debut novel by Caroline Llewellyn, is a captivating combination of romance and suspense. Set in present-day turbulent Rome during the celebration of Carnevale, the novel focuses on Kate Roy, a recently divorced Canadian, who is seeking solace in her work as an apprentice art restorer. An assignment takes her to the home of Count Massimo Torreleone, elderly patriarch of one of Rome's oldest families, and his jet-setting son Alessandro, who is rumoured to have depleted the Torreleone fortunes. Kate's job is to restore some of the family's paintings so that they can be sold to replenish the Torreleone coffers.

The novel opens with Kate's being mugged by a motorcycle bandit and then rescued by Nick Taliaferro, a handsome American who treats her to dinner and exhibits an unusual interest in her work at the Palazzo Torreleone. Kate's discovery that the most valuable of her client's paintings, a famous madonna and child by Guido Reni, is actually a forgery and the interest expressed in the situation by the mysterious Nick are further complicated by the fact that the firm that employs Kate recently cleaned the Reni. This knowledge leads to a number of unanswered questions. The implications of the possible answers frighten Kate, but she soon enlists the help of Nick and other friends to help solve the mystery.

Minor subplots featuring political intrigue and financial swindles keep the plot moving along at a satisfying pace. Everything comes together neatly in a convincing denouement on the final evening of Carnevale, during a masquerade ball at the Palazzo Torreleone. Interesting characters and a fairly smooth narrative help to make this a novel of wide appeal.


Katherine Wallis, Barrie Public Library, Barrie, Ont.
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