Once upon a time, before HBO’s “True Blood” and those damn “Twilight” movies, there was a novel called “The Historian,” the debut from author Elizabeth Kostova that blended the history, adventure and detective-novel genres all around the lore of Count Dracula. It was a fun, epic read, published in 2005, when the literary world was looking for the next “Da Vinci Code”-like sensation. The work debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list, the first debut hardcover to do so. (And, for what it’s worth, it was a much better book than Dan Brown’s slick slop.) With her second novel, “The Swan Thieves,” Kostova tries to duplicate her success with similar themes; the past informs the present, in history there’s mystery and, if written well, a range of characters and narratives all converging on one point will amount to a rich and sweeping good time. In “The Swan Thieves,” swap archivalists and vampires for painters, as the plot revolves around a successful artist who remains silent for months in an asylum and a fascinated doctor who’s determined to learn more about his patient, who only sketches and paints one image: a beautiful young woman in Victorian clothing. Ooohhh, mysterious… (Tom Lynch)
Elizabeth Kostova discusses “The Swan Thieves” February 4 at Borders, 2817 N. Clark, (773)935-3909, at 7pm, and also February 5 at Barnes & Noble, 55 Old Orchard Center, Skokie, (847)676-2230 at 7:30pm.