On the other hand, the suspense plot on The Book of Hours revolves entirely upon Gabriela’s recreation of a medieval manuscript. After catching a glimpse of her work, an unscrupulous arts dealer, Arnold Wickeham, becomes obsessed. He would do anything, ANYTHING, to get his hands on Gabriela’s work before it goes live at the children’s charity auction. And he will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
Excerpt from Chapter Two:
Time was of the essence. Ever since setting eyes on her exquisite creation, he knew he could not allow it to go to auction. That manuscript could not go to anyone else. And, bugger it, he wanted…
Now that was a rather tame description of the emotions evoked within his psyche. The moment his contact at Christie’s had shown him two of her folio pages, his need for Mrs. Martinez’s work had ratcheted up beyond wanting. He rummaged through the glossary in his brain. Ah, yes. He coveted. He craved. And that Book of Hours would be his.
He wet his lips. To possess uniqueness was a dangerous compulsion, he knew. According to his ex-shrink akin to an aberration. Wickeham didn’t experience this compulsion frequently, but, upon rare occasions, artifacts would surface which called to him, drew him to such extent his need to possess hurt. And rarity…now, rarity was something for which he would go to extremes. Her manuscript was such. No. Worse. It was one of a kind. He simply could not allow anyone else to have it. Could not allow her to create a facsimile.
And THAT is the premise of the thriller. From that moment, the cat-and-mouse game is on, and Richard will be hard-pressed to keep Gabriela safe.
As the plot unfolds throughout the novel, I give more glimpses of manuscript references. In Chapter Three, a flashback reminds the reader of what Richard had seen in Gabriela’s workspace in France (a reference back to The Coin). In Chapter Seven, we see Gabriela choosing frames for another of her medieval illustrations recreations.
Excerpt Chapter Three:
Slides of memories flashed across Richard’s brain. The lapis lazuli background, a one-dimensional figurine of a Madonna, gold paint accents, gorgeously convoluted script. He had seen the sketches on the desk in her workroom four years ago.
“So she finally finished it,” Richard whispered, more to himself than to the priest.
“That’s when the problems began.”
Excerpt Chapter Seven:
Out on the terrace Gabriela placed her latest work, a Byzantine-like rendition of a Madonna and Child, beside the picture frame Jean-Louis had uncovered moments ago. The Madonna stared solemnly back at them with eyes reflecting patience, holiness, wisdom, and a weary, painful acceptance of a destiny that rent at the soul.
However, I left the details of the manuscript folios for Chapter Nineteen, when Gabriela and Richard are at the pre-auction party at Christie’s. After a small confrontation, Richard asks her to describe the work displayed there. However, and this was a conscious choice, I purposely didn’t overwhelm the narrative with detail because I did not want to detract from the suspense. It’s a pacing thing, as many experienced authors know. Novice authors, on the other hand, can’t help but over-share what they know about a craft or a topic they’ve researched or are familiar with. That can (and will) diminish a reader’s interest…a death knell to a suspense/thriller.
Below is what I decided to show, and the photos attached complement that description. The medieval Psalter, The Visconti Hours, on which I base my descriptions, is a true masterpiece.
Excerpt Chapter Nineteen:
“Will you show me your work?” He paused. “Forgive me?”
Gabriela’s heart melted. She turned, trying not to show how her eyes spoke of her emotions, trying not to make things too easy for him.
“This vellum copy,” she began, “is my reproduction of a psalm page on the original Visconti Hours manuscript.” She expanded her descriptions, explaining the Latin script, the allusions of the falcons perched on stylized oaks. She glossed over the embellishments and the trefoil, what method she’d applied in creating the colors, the gilding of the page, and how Julien had pitched in by obtaining the vellum. All the while Richard’s hand, warm against her back, moved in wide, concentric circles, roaming from her waist to underneath her hair, and back down again.
She was about to explain another exhibit when a voice floated over her shoulders like bad news.
She recognized it, to her detriment.
La pétasse. The bitch.
And there it is…my fascination with all things medieval used to create the plot of my novel, The Book of Hours. Guess I did what many authors know—write what you know. Hope you enjoyed reading this bit of my novels’ trivia. Until the next time.