Beatrice Nasi Mendes, a 16th-century Jewish leader, receives a deservedly epic treatment in Barnett's solid historical novel. While not a household name today, even within the Jewish community, Mendes's accomplishments are impressive. At 17, she was living in Lisbon when she discovered her late parents were Jews who had concealed their faith to protect their family. That shock led Mendes to Judaism, propelling her to a leadership position among Jews in many countries, using diplomacy, her intellect, and family financial resources to rescue her co-religionists from the Inquisition. The author somehow manages to make too-good-to-be-true Mendes human and fallible. And while Barnett's prose isn't particularly sophisticated, the overall effect of the heroine's trials and tribulations is impressive. Many readers will be inspired to seek out Cecil Roth's biography of Mendes.