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The Chrysalis

The Chrysalis

4.6 5
by Heather Terrell

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Haarlem, Holland, seventeenth-century: The city’s chief magistrate commissions a family portrait from Dutch master painter Johannes Miereveld. But when the artist sees the magistrate’s daughter, Amalia, an illicit love affair begins. Miereveld creates a captivating masterpiece, The Chrysalis–a stunning portrait of the Virgin Mary, full


Haarlem, Holland, seventeenth-century: The city’s chief magistrate commissions a family portrait from Dutch master painter Johannes Miereveld. But when the artist sees the magistrate’s daughter, Amalia, an illicit love affair begins. Miereveld creates a captivating masterpiece, The Chrysalis–a stunning portrait of the Virgin Mary, full of Catholic symbols, that outrages his Protestant patron and signals the death of his career.

New York, present day: Mara Coyne is one high-profile case away from making partner at her powerful Manhattan law firm, and now the client that is sure to seal the deal has fallen into her lap. The prestigious Beazley’s auction house is about to sell a lost masterwork, The Chrysalis, in an auction that is destined to become legendary. Standing in the way, however, is the shocking accusation that the painting belongs not to Beazley’s client but to Hilda Baum, the daughter of a Dutch collector who lost his paintings–and his life–to the Nazis.

The case brings an unexpected surprise when Mara discovers that Beazley’s in-house attorney is Michael Roarke, a man for whom she once had an intense attraction. But the same skills that make her a brilliant litigator also make Mara suspicious, and she begins to believe that Hilda’s tragic family story might be more than just heartbreaking–it might be true. And the man she’s come to love might not be who she thought he was at all.

Spanning centuries and continents, The Chrysalis is a brilliant, intelligent, fast-paced thriller that melds art and history into a provocative work of fiction. From the underground Catholicism in seventeenth-century Holland to the unspeakable crimes of the Nazis and the repercussions that reverberate to this day throughout the art world, Heather Terrell has created a fascinating story that will entrance readers to the very last page.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Advance praise for The Chrysalis

“Quick, sure images, tight storytelling, solid suspense. A tense and vivid tale.”
–Steve Berry, author of The Alexandria Link

“Fascinating history and assured storytelling make The Chrysalis one of those rare thrillers that both entertain and intrigue. This is a terrific debut!”
–Tess Gerritsen, New York Times bestselling author of The Mephisto Club

“Flemish art, Nazi skullduggery, and American money–in The Chrysalis, Heather Terrell follows the path of a famous painting through an important period of history that must not be forgotten, and interweaves the stories of three centuries into a dark cocoon of intrigue and suspense.”
–Katherine Neville, New York Times bestselling author of The Eight

“Only someone who feels a real love for art and the power of justice could have written a book like this.”
–Javier Sierra, New York Times bestselling author of The Secret Supper

Library Journal

Mara Coyne returns in Terrell's second novel, now heading her own firm in the aftermath of The Chrysalis case. Coyne accepts an assignment from prominent collector Richard Tobias to verify the provenance of a map located at-and subsequently stolen from-an archaelogical dig site. Proof of the existence of what is purported to be the earliest world map ever made would change our understanding of the history of the age of exploration. Terrell again follows three narrative paths, following Coyne on the hunt for the map in the present day while tracing the mapmaker in early 15th-century China and the eventual voyage of the map with Vasco de Gama's navigator. An intriguing blend of suspense and historical fiction featuring a strong protagonist in Coyne; for popular fiction collections.
—Beth Lindsay

Kirkus Reviews
Beautiful lawyer, tricked into defending Nazi loot, seeks to undo past wrongs. Mara Coyne is up for a partnership if she can win one for a major client. Before it can make a lucrative sale, ritzy auction house Beazley's needs legal defense to prove that a 16th-century masterpiece, The Chrysalis, wasn't stolen by the Nazis in 1943. As an added incentive, Mara finds that her contact at the auction house is the dashing Michael, an old college crush. Having spent too many years burning the midnight oil for the Manhattan law firm, she's easy prey, and she and Michael begin a secret affair while she works with Beazley's formidable expert, Lillian, to prove the painting's flawless provenance. But two intersecting storylines-one introducing the painting's secretly Catholic creator who worked in staunchly Calvinist Holland, the other recreating the wartime Jewish owners-foreshadow Mara's ultimate discovery that documents have been forged and her newfound love is compromised. Teaming up with the elderly, elegant Lillian, who was also deceived by love 60 years before, she jets to London to uncover the truth. Like the painting, Terrell's debut is full of lovely detail, from the descriptions of the Dutch landscape to the '40s fashions of the wealthy Baum family. A theme of hidden faith and passion runs solidly throughout this slim thriller. The painter, Johannes Miereveld, pours his secret faith into the painting, which also reveals a forbidden love affair. The Baums, labeled Jews by the Nazis, had thought themselves Catholic. And Mara finds herself recalling her beloved Irish Catholic grandmother as she learns about betrayal and finds her moral core. But the plot is thinner than new varnish. Theauthor telegraphs Michael's duplicity from the start and the resolution is too quickly tied up through brief or off-stage meetings, and a final letter that seeks to weave all the historical strands together. Sleek historical mystery glides by on detail, but lacks plot depth.

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
4.22(w) x 6.89(h) x 0.85(d)

Read an Excerpt


Berlin, 1943

The train bound for milan snakes into the berlin station, sending billows of steam high into the station’s skeletal rafters. Its whistle pierces the night once and then recedes. Silence reclaims the cavernous space, broken now and then only by the slow, steady scraping of a sweeper’s broom.

The sweeper has learned not to stare openly at the horrors that pass through the station. He knows to keep his own counsel and inhabit the shadows. Yet he watches, head bowed, from beneath the brim of his cap.

Track by track, click by click, the train comes to a stop. In the last car, a couple sits facing each other. They wait without moving, framed like portraits by the window’s ruby curtains. Their incandescence defies the heavy, quiet darkness, and the sweeper slows his pace.

He considers the woman first. A station lamppost throws her proud profile into bold relief against the dark cabin corners. The low light catches the folds of her silk persimmon dress and the ermine trim of her traveling jacket and cloche hat. He shakes his head at the decadence of her clothes and calculates the loaves of bread her ensemble could fetch on the black market. Then the sweeper shifts his attention to the man, whose overall deportment seems more respectful of a wartime journey than the woman’s. He has a naturally engaging round face, but he is dressed somberly in a charcoal suit, simple black overcoat, and fedora. His right hand clutches a worn brown envelope so tightly his knuckles shine white, and the jagged points of a yellow star peer out from his coat. The sweeper supposes that both must understand the precariousness of their travel.

Suddenly, the door to the compartment swings open with a jolt, and the man and the woman spring to their feet. The sweeper steps back into the safety of the shadows.

Flaxen boy-soldiers swarm around the couple. Their black uniforms gleam with gold buttons, and every jacket boasts the slash of red swastikas. The sweeper knows that these are not the usual station militia, and he jumps when their gloved hands cut across the compartment to take the man’s tickets.

Then the boy-soldiers part to let a decorated officer come forward.

The official leans closer to address the couple. He hands over a document with a fountain pen and demands the man’s signature; the officer wants the man to surrender something. Lowering his eyes, the traveler shakes his head. Instead, the man relinquishes his precious envelope, his hand trembling as he presents it to the officer.

The officer holds the envelope up to the cabin light, then slashes it open and scrutinizes the letter within. He stuffs the letter back into its envelope and returns it to the man. The officer and his soldiers pivot and depart, shutting the cabin door sharply behind them.

The train whistle cries out again, and the couple returns to their seats. A cautious smile curls on the corner of the man’s mouth, but the sweeper turns away in despair. He has seen the boy-soldiers hard at work. He knows that when the train pulls away from the station, the last car will remain.


Meet the Author

Heather Terrell is a lawyer with more than ten years’ experience as a litigator at two of the country’s premier law firms and for Fortune 500 companies. She is a graduate of Boston College and of the Boston University School of Law. She lives in Pittsburgh. The Chrysalis is her first novel.

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Chrysalis 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Heather Terrell writes a compelling novel about stolen art and the search and legalities to return it to the rightful owners. I hope to Mara in her next novel. Can't wait
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Loved the approach of Dutch Calvinist art work because of tme spent in Amsterdam. The different symbolism and twists and turns kept the story moving. Impressive first novel. Can't wait to read your second,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Fast-paced and fascinating story. I love these types of books and was pleasantly surprised to see a female lead. Looking forward to reading the next one.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago