The Seventh Unicorn by Kelly Jones
(Berkley, $7.99, PG) ISBN 0-425-20625-4
****
The Seventh Unicorn is both an art historianís dream read and an aficionadoís delight in the exploration of the psyche of maturing adults. It is both very slow moving, yet filled with multiple sub plots. In places the heroineís life parallels that of the mysterious and now forgotten creator of the Unicorn Tapestry series. This story operates on many levels with dualism as its undercurrent theme.

Alex Pellier is a curator at the world famous Cluny Museum in Paris. Among other treasures, it houses the famed Unicorn Tapestry collection. There are six of these and they represent some of the museumís greatest treasures. Alexís other passion is her six year old daughter Soleil.

Alex has been dispatched by Madame Remy to the Convent of Saint Blandine in the countryside near Paris to investigate a letter received from the Reverend Mother Superior Alvere. She had written that the convent was being closed and they wished to dispose of their collections of books, tapestries and other religious artifacts to gain sufficient funds to support the sisters in their declining years.

When she arrives, Alex is shunted off to the library unable to see the Mother Superior. In the time she is there, she investigates some of the old works and finds a parchment page among others behind some books on a shelf. The language is archaic French, undecipherable in part but alludes to something valuable hidden in the convent. The next day Alex is informed the Reverend Mother has died.

While giving a tour one day at the Museum, Alex is confronted by Jacob Bowman, an aspiring artist and an old love. He has come to Paris to try and recapture the inspiration to paint.

She is offered another chance to go through the library at Saint Blandine and takes Jake with her. While there, Alex finds sketches that are scenes that she recognizes as part of the Unicorn Tapestries, and enough additional information to make her believe that perhaps there is yet an undiscovered Seventh Unicorn Tapestry.

The race is on to discover its whereabouts and Alex and Jake are pitted against others seeking it as well. The story emphasizes the subtle parallels between the history of the tapestry creator and the life of Alex. The sexual tension accompanying the reuniting of Alex and Jake is sustained at about the same pace as the search for the tapestry. All of this is done with a rare trace of nostalgia.

The Seventh Unicorn is replete with detail acquired by a tremendous amount of research. Detail, not only of tapestries, their creation and care, but also of the symbolism in the scenes of the tapestries so critical to their creation. Additionally, there is sufficient detail of Paris and environs to interest any Francophile. For all of these reasons The Seventh Unicorn is not particularly a quick read, but it is both interesting and enjoyable.

--Thea Davis


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