Everything Under the Sky: A Novel
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Everything Under the Sky: A Novel

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by Matilde Asensi
     
 

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In the glorious new adventure novel Everything Under the Sky, internationally bestselling author Matilde Asensi turns her genius eye for scholarly thrills to the hunt for the lost treasure of China's First Emperor and to the marvelous cast of characters who will do anything to claim it for themselves.

After receiving word of her husband's death,

Overview

In the glorious new adventure novel Everything Under the Sky, internationally bestselling author Matilde Asensi turns her genius eye for scholarly thrills to the hunt for the lost treasure of China's First Emperor and to the marvelous cast of characters who will do anything to claim it for themselves.

After receiving word of her husband's death, Spanish painter Elvira De Poulain travels to Shanghai to claim his body and put his affairs in order. Prim and straitlaced, Elvira feels out of place in this exotic city teeming with unfamiliar sights, sounds, and smells. She longs to return home to Paris as soon as possible. Her charming but dissolute spouse has left her with massive debts, thanks to his fondness for gambling, prostitutes, and opium, and she has no idea how she will repay the enormous sum.

As it turns out, her ailing husband did own something of extraordinary value, and was mysteriously killed by thugs who wanted it for themselves: a beautifully crafted box that holds clues to the location of the remains of China's First Emperor—and the unimaginable riches buried alongside him.

Joining forces with a colorful Irish journalist, a wily local antiquarian, and a brilliant orphaned servant boy, Elvira is swept up into the journey of a lifetime as these mismatched partners embark on an arduous trek to find the sacred site—with assassins in relentless pursuit.

Despite the ever-present risk, Elvira gradually acclimates to China's language, culture, and geography, while the grueling physical challenges and complex intellectual puzzles required to locate the tomb test her strength, her courage, and her smarts in every possible way.

One of the most successful historical thriller writers of her generation, Matilde Asensi outdoes herself while focusing on a country and culture that, to this day, remain shrouded in mystery.

Editorial Reviews

Associated Press
“Asensi delivers fun in new thriller...an adventure that is so engrossing it could compel the reader to skip meals and ignore chores in a mad dash to read the book’s ending...Delicious to read.”
USA Today
“What fans will like: international travel, puzzles, secret societies and historical treasures. ”
Publishers Weekly

Straitlaced Spanish painter Elvira De Poulain confronts massive debt-and mortal danger-in freewheeling 1920s Shanghai in her efforts to sort out her murdered husband's messy affairs in this fast-paced if farfetched thriller from Asensi (The Last Cato). The only hope for Elvira and her sulky teenage niece, Fernanda, is to decipher the clues in an antique chest the killers failed to find, and to beat them to the mythic lost treasure buried 2,000 years earlier with China's first emperor.The desperate quest takes these improbable Indiana Janes on a cross-country race that showcases both the Spanish author's meticulous historical research and her skill at interweaving it into her suspenseful narrative. While the ladies' traveling companions, including an aristocratic Chinese antiquarian and a genius servant boy, lend interest, some readers may find the two protagonists, despite the personal growth gained as they rise to various challenges, less than fully engaging. (Oct.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061458415
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
08/12/2008
Pages:
400
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 10.54(h) x 1.24(d)

Read an Excerpt

Everything Under the Sky
A Novel

Chapter One

One afternoon, amid the interminable seasickness and misery that overshadowed our crossing on the André Lebon, a surprising calm fell over the ship. I struggled to open my eyes at least partway, as if that would tell me why the packet boat had stopped pounding against the waves for the first time in six weeks. Six weeks! Forty dreadful days, out of which I remember being on deck just once or twice—and only after a great deal of effort. I never saw Port Said, Djibouti, or Singapore. I wasn't even able to rise enough to look out the porthole in my cabin as we crossed the Suez Canal or when we docked in Ceylon and Hong Kong. Nausea and fatigue had kept me flat out in that narrow bed in my second-class cabin ever since we left Marseille on the morning of Sunday, July 22. Neither the ginger infusions nor the stupefying whiffs of laudanum had alleviated my distress.

Oceans were not for me. I was born in Madrid, inland, on the Castilian plateau, far from the nearest beach. Boarding a ship to float halfway around the world, rocking to and fro, was not in my nature. I would much rather have made the trip by train, but Rémy always said it was too dangerous. Indeed, ever since the Bolshevik revolution in Russia, it was absolute madness to travel through Siberia. Thus I had no choice but to buy tickets on that elegant steamer operated by Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes. I just prayed the god of the sea would be compassionate and not feel some eccentric need to sink us into the ocean, where we'd be devoured by fish, our bones covered in sludge forever. There are some things we are simply not born todo, and I certainly had not come into this world with a seagoing spirit.

Once the disconcerting silence and calm had revived me, I gazed up at the familiar blades of the fan hanging from the ceiling. At some point on our journey, I swore that if I managed to set foot on solid ground again, I would paint that fan just as I had seen it under the effects of laudanum. Perhaps the art dealer Kahnweiler, who was so fond of the cubist works by my countrymen Picasso and Juan Gris, would want to buy it. But that foggy vision of the fan blades didn't explain why the ship had stopped. I was struck by a sense of foreboding when I didn't hear the usual commotion or the sound of passengers rushing up on deck that accompanied arrival at port. After all, we were on the perilous East China Sea, and even in that year of 1923, dangerous Asian pirates still boarded passenger ships to rob and kill. My heart pounded, and my hands began to sweat. Just then a sinister knock came at my door.

"May I, Auntie?" inquired the muted voice of the brand-new niece I had apparently won at a raffle, for which I'd never even bought a ticket.

"Come in," I murmured, holding back a mild wave of nausea. Since Fernanda came only to bring me the infusion for seasickness, my stomach turned whenever she arrived.

Her plump figure squeezed through the doorway. She held a large porcelain cup in one hand and her perennial black fan in the other. The girl never let go of that fan, just as she never let her hair out of the ponytail pulled tight at the nape of her neck. The robust youth of her seventeen years contrasted sharply with the deep mourning dress she always wore. Her outfit was outrageously old-fashioned, even for a young woman from Madrid, and completely inappropriate for the scorching heat in these parts. I had offered her some of my own clothing (chic, lighter blouses and a shorter skirt, cut to the knee as was fashionable in Paris). But, being the proud heiress of a dry, ungrateful personality, she flatly rejected my offer, crossing herself and staring down at her hands, categorically settling the matter once and for all.

"Why has the ship stopped?" I asked as I slowly sat up, catching a hint of the acrid potion that the cooks routinely prepared.

"We're no longer at sea," she explained, sitting on the edge of my bed and bringing the cup to my lips. "We're at a place called Woosung or Woosong, something like that, fourteen miles from Shanghai. The ship has to move slowly because we're heading upriver and there's the possibility we could hit bottom, but we should be there within a couple of hours."

"At last!" I exclaimed, noticing that mere proximity to Shanghai was much more soothing than the ginger tisane. Still, I wouldn't truly feel well until I was out of that awful, salty-smelling cabin.

Fernanda, who kept the cup at my lips no matter how far I leaned back, made a grimace that was supposed to be a smile. The poor thing was exactly like her mother, my insufferable sister Carmen, who had passed away five years earlier during the terrible flu epidemic of 1918. In addition to her personality, Fernanda had inherited her mother's big, round eyes and protruding chin. They also had the same nose, which ended in a funny little ball and gave them a somewhat comical look, despite their constant sour expressions. Fernanda had, however, inherited her size from her father, my brother-in-law Pedro, a man with an enormous paunch, his double chin so big that he'd grown a beard just to try to hide it. Pedro wasn't exactly the epitome of charming either, so it was no wonder the fruit of that unfortunate marriage was this serious young thing dressed in mourning and as sweet as lemons.

"You should gather your things, Auntie. Shall I help you pack?"

"If you wouldn't mind." I exhaled, falling back onto the hard old bed with an exaggerated display of suffering that, while absolutely real, did come off as rather affected. Still, the girl had offered to help. Why not let her?

Everything Under the Sky
A Novel
. Copyright � by Matilde Asensi. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Matilde Asensi is the author of many internationally bestselling thrillers, including The Last Cato. She lives in Alicante, Spain.


Matilde Asensi, periodista y escritora española, ha publicado varios libros bestsellers, incluyendo su primera novela, El salón de ámbar, que ha sido traducida a varios idiomas, Iacobus que la situó en los primeros puestos de las listas bestsellers y El último catón que la confirmó como la autora de su generación de mayor éxito de crítica y público. Actualmente reside en Alicante, España.

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Everything Under the Sky 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Elvira DePoulain is a middle aged artist living in Paris in 1923. Although she has not lived with her husband Remy in twenty years, they are on good terms. When she receives notice that he has passed away, she travels to China with her orphaned young niece Fernanda to settle his affairs. When she arrives she is stunned by what awaits her. Remy died heavily in debt and under French law, she is responsible for payment. Still in shock, she is further disturbed when Paddy, an Irish journalist tells her that her husband was not randomly killed by thieves but was murdered by the Green Gang, as they believed he possessed an ancient carved box. They did not find the box, but Elvira does. A Chinese antiquarian- Lao Jiang - explains the box holds clues to a wealth of treasure. He persuades her to accompany him on the quest. She agrees as she needs the money to pay off Remy's debts. Asensi does a wonderful job with descriptions of China and it's culture. Particularily fascinating are the explanations of the concepts of Tao and Feng Shui. Her puzzles are well thought out and rival any adventure book of this type- The Da Vinci Code for example. Where I found myself wanting more was in the characters themselves. Although Elvira is portrayed as a strong, independent woman who grows even more along the trek, I just didn't buy it. Her pronouncements seem forced and awkwardly placed, especially those dealing with her niece. Much more interesting was Fernanda and the young servant boy Biao. Their youthful enthusiasm and intelligence came across as much more realistic. Lao Jiang seems to be written as a bit of a caricature, as does Paddy the Irishman. We know Lao Jiang is not quite what he seems with his brooding silences and taciturn manner. All in all, not a bad read, but not as good as I would have hoped. Looking for something similar? Try James Rollins.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is fantastic is the history of  Elvira, spanish woman in China,  the author a wonderful job with descriptions of China and it's culture. Particularily fascinating are the explanations of the concepts of Tao and Feng Shui.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Spanish artist Elvira De Poulain is notified that her husband Remy was murdered by the Green Gang assassins in China. Stunned but not shocked as her late debauched spouse seemed to get into trouble all the time, she leaves accompanied by her orphaned niece Fernanda from Paris for Shanghai to bring his body home for burial. In Shanghai, Elvira feels out of place and looks forward to returning to the comfort of Europe. However, she quickly realizes she has major issues to deal with as her self-indulgent husband ran up unbelievable debts due to his vices of gambling, hookers, and opium. She learns he was killed because he owned a priceless box that allegedly contains clues to the burial location of China's First Emperor and his treasure others demanded he hand over his find, but he refused and died for his stubbornness. Elvira considers seeking the booty and soon finds allies: fiftyish pot bellied Irish journalist Patrick Tichborne, a white bearded Celestial local antiquarian Mr. Jiang and an orphaned young servant Biao. --- This is an entertaining 1920s saga that fans will enjoy as the no nonsense European and her niece slowly acclimate to China while seeking the tomb and dodging killers. The story line is driven the by the quintet who consists of the artist, two youths and two older men whereas their adversaries are professional assassins. EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN is an entertaining tale as the audience wonders whether Elvira will survive her physical ordeal and solve the complex clues, get killed, or flee back to France. --- Harriet Klausner