Codex 632: The Secret Identity of Christopher Columbus

Jose Rodrigues Dos Santos, Author, Alison Entrekin, Translator
Jose Rodrigues Dos Santos, Author, Alison Entrekin, Translator William Morrow & Company $24.95 (319p) ISBN 978-0-06-117318-9
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Historian and journalist dos Santos tries his hand at fiction in this ambitious but disappointing tale of mistaken identity. Hired by a foundation to prepare a historical study of the discovery of Brazil, historian Martinho Toscano gets sidetracked by a \x93five-hundred-year-old conspiracy\x94 regarding Christopher Columbus's identity. When Toscano drops dead, the foundation recruits historian Thomas Noronha, a history professor and cryptologist, to recover Toscano's work (it's written in code). Noronha, who needs cash to pay for his daughter's heart operation, reluctantly accepts the offer of $5,000 a week and a $500,000 bonus. Relying on his code-breaking skills and brushing aside pesky complications\x97an unlikely affair with a beautiful young Swedish exchange student, his crumbling marriage and his daughter's deteriorating health\x97Noronha retraces Toscano's footsteps from Rio de Janeiro to Jerusalem to Lisbon in search of the real Columbus. Unfortunately, the narrative rests uneasily on a series of extended tutorials, and the characters are bloodless. The slow unraveling of a conspiracy, while interesting, isn't enough to sustain a narrative lacking action and suspense. (Apr.)
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