This novel intertwines 17th century and present day plots. The 17th century story proposes a possible explanation for how Rembrandt might have come to be in Hull, England, in 1662. The Dutch master was generally loathe to travel, so a reported sighting of him in Hull has long been a mystery.
The contemporary story is situated in and around the house in which Rembrandt supposedly stayed. The house, owned by a ship captain named Dahl over three centuries ago, is being restored. A young woman, Amy Dale, ends up at the house through the fluke of picking up a hitchhiker who is one of the workmen. Past generations of her family owned the house, and it has become something of a mythical symbol to them. Amy is hired to restore the ceiling decorations, but her presence unleashes tensions between Dennis, the hitchhiker of whom she has become fond, and Don, the rather mysterious workman who engenders stronger desires.
Both stories are engaging and mesh well together. The historical elements draw from reality. Andrew Marvell, the poet, plays a leading role in earlier story, as he was Member of Parliament for Hull during the period, and his actual knowledge of Dutch is important to the plot.
The author (James Long writing under an alias) is convincing in the first-person Rembrandt sections, in which he delves into the artist’s philosophy and techniques of painting. The amusing dialogue between Amy and Dennis had me laughing out loud. The Painter is labeled as suspense. The label is accurate but limiting, as readers who are not interested in suspense will find much to enjoy.