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The Icon    by Neil Olson order for
by Neil Olson
Order:  USA  Can
HarperCollins, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, Audio

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* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The Icon takes the reader back to World War II and its aftermath in Greece, when a country devastated by war was then confronted with a battle against communism. In those hard times, men did things they would not contemplate in peacetime. In 1944, an icon of Mary, 'Holy Mother of Katarini', was stolen from a church in a deserted area. Men have died because of it and other men have coveted it. Did the Nazi collector make off with the sacred object or was it destroyed in a fire?

Skip ahead to the year 2000 in New York City. The icon has resurfaced and again men are dying. Some want to possess it because of its great worth, others because they claim Mary's eyes are capable of mystical healing and understanding. Another wants it returned to its rightful place in Greece. It disappears again. Who has it, and is it right that they do?

Though this is Neil Olson's first novel, he is no stranger to the literary world. President and senior partner of a literary agency, he has produced a story worthy of any of his clients. Slipping back and forth between war-torn Greece and modern-day America, the book spans those years with little effort and keeps the action moving.

Olson takes the reader behind the scenes of the art world, especially religious art. Faith naturally comes into the mix, as does man's greed. Matthew Spear, art curator and a godson of the icon's present owner, seems almost too pure to be true, in light of the machinations of the numerous characters who people the pages. An exciting book that moves at a good pace, The Icon has a rip-roaring climax.

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