In a small town on the Italian coast, a mysterious woman washes ashore. She is crippled, mute, and clutches a bundle to her chest-a baby the townspeople insist is a real-life mermaid. It can only bring bad luck; they pay a troupe of acrobats to carry mother and child away.
In the bustling trade center of Venice, merchant Paul Pindar is the subject of his colleagues' concern. Since his return from Constantinople, they have found him changed; raging over the loss of his beloved, Celia, he has gambled away his fortune at the gaming tables. But when a priceless blue diamond surfaces in the city, Pindar recognizes the opportunity to regain everything he has lost-including, perhaps, the woman he loves.
A celebrated writer of history and travel books, Katie Hickman has always been a master of evoking time and place. With The Pindar Diamond, her follow-up to The Aviary Gate, she brings early-seventeenth-century Italy vividly to life, and also demonstrates her maturity as a novelist. A tale of love and avarice, with a touch of the mystical, The Pindar Diamond is rich with historical detail, and unfolds with urgency and grace. It is accomplished, wholly satisfying historical fiction.
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Katie Hickman is the author of several previous books, including history books, travel narratives, and novels. She has been shortlisted for the Thomas Cook Travel Book Award, and for the Sunday Times Young British Writer of the Year award. Hickman lives in London with her two children and her husband, the philosopher A.C. Grayling.From Publishers Weekly :
In Hickman's coincidence-heavy latest (after The Aviary Gate), Paul Pindar, a 17th-century English merchant working in Venice, is obsessed with the Sultan's Blue, a 322-carat diamond coveted by every collector in the plague-ravaged city. Pindar, broke from drinking and gambling, needs the diamond to ransom his captive love from a sultan's harem. Intertwined with his story are those of Sister Annetta, a convent novitiate who alone knows how the Sultan's Blue came to Venice, and Maryam, an acrobat charged with escorting a crippled mute and her deformed newborn (who might be a mermaid) to Venice. When Pindar learns that the Sultan's Blue will be the prize in a high-stakes card game, he desperately tries to scheme his way to the table, going against warnings from fellow traders Ambrose Smith, a covert intelligencer, and John Carew, a friend with his own secret. Though the narrative moves from Pindar to Annetta to Maryam in a frustratingly helter-skelter fashion, Hickman provides a convincing portrait of a troubled Venice that will tide readers over until the story elements click into place just in time for a series of satisfying resolutions.
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