Before there was The Da Vinci Code, there was Landscape of Lies. A more intelligent, less sensational, less riddled with religious quackery version of the famous best-seller, Landscape also seeks a hidden treasure, its hiding place to be discovered by deciphering the clues in a painting.
Art dealer Michael Whiting and farmer (!) Isobel Sadler, whose family owns the painting, combine forces in modern times to find religious relics hidden during Henry VIII’s purge of the monasteries of England. While Watson peppers his story with chase scenes and a thoroughly blackguardly villain, the better part of the story is spent in quiet contemplation in libraries, churches, and restoration workshops and over dinner in a little country village. Strangely, although there are scenes, especially the romantic ones, that seem a little dated – the book was written in 1989 – it is easy to become fascinated by the history around which the author spins his story.
I loved the detail, and I’m not just talking about the academic hoo-hah. For instance, when the characters drive down a road, the author inserts little comments (such as, the characters must be getting near a town because of the approaching “electricity cables”) that bring the drive to life. However, I think the story would have benefited if the two main characters both had been men or women, dispensing with the blah romantic comings and goings.