Take No More by Seb Kirby has the international intrigue, settings, and plot twists to make broad comparisons to a Dan Brown novel. But unfortunately that's where the likeness starts to fade. Set in London, England and Florence, Italy, James Blake returns home to find his wife Julia dead in their apartment. It is catchy opening, but his emotional trauma is bumped aside by some leap of logic that "they" (Why they?) killed her and only he can crack the case by going to Florence because of a mysterious message "Help me" left on his cell phone and a link to Michelangelo's Leda and the Swan. What follows is complex set of twists and turns that pits everyman, James Blake, at odds against a corrupt Italian family from Florence. His dedication to his wife is admirable, but why this fly on wall isn't bumped off thirty-times over befuddles me. Brits must get a crash course in being James Bond in finishing school.
For me, the bigger disappointment was with the craft itself. This is a slim book for such a meaty plot, it felt more dashed off than carefully crafted, and the frequency of errors grew as we approached the somewhat predictable and non-confrontational ending. The author "told" me many things, but he didn't allow me to experience them through the character. Considering the locales, the descriptions should be rich tapestries and not another, "it was beautiful, wonderful" description. Also, authorial intrusions occurred where the protagonist thinks about the past of places he's not been to - the Italian police station comes to mind - or people he doesn't know. Controlled head-hopping is an art form not done well here. Some typos I can forgive, and we should be past the American/English word choices complaining, but there were several confusing tense changes and way too many awkward sentences that a good editor would not have allowed to pass on to the unsuspecting reader.
The missed opportunity to extend the mystery of the painting until the climax. So much more could have been done here. Tamping down my heightened expectations, I can give this novel a take it or leave it "3".