(Head of Zeus, Oct. 3, 2019)
'Striking ... Hegarty has gifted us a vital book for our time. Bathed in light, seeped in colour; it is full of the act of being mortal – in a landscape that is – slowly, finally – finding what it means to be human' IRISH TIMES. A surprising and ambitious work of fiction centred on the art world, featuring an artist who has become an art thief, an obsessive curator and a specialist in major art thefts. Their stories intersect with the fate of a legendary work by a tragic Victorian woman artist who painted the picture as a kind of funeral dress, using the notoriously fragile distemper technique. At the heart of this moving and unusual novel is a strange painting by a woman who committed suicide rather than live with neglect and pain. Her final glowingly beautiful work was painted with a technique more usual for posters and banners, and not designed to last. She intended it as her shroud. It hangs in a Dublin gallery, and it is desired by a collector who is willing to pay to have it stolen. The thief is a disillusioned, corrupted London artist coping with tragic loss. The curator of the painting is a lonely gallerist whose life centres on her work. And the man charged with recovering the stolen painting is a gay man trapped in an abusive relationship. The lives of these three damaged people, each evoked with a calm, moving sympathy reminiscent of Michael Cunningham or David Park, come together around the hauntingly strange Victorian painting. Set in London, Dublin, Northern Ireland and various European capitals, The Jewel is a major new novel from an Irish writer coming into his own. 'Irish author Neil Hegarty proves again that he is one to watch ... Hegarty writes with sharp intelligence, which coupled with his strong storytelling and well-defined characters, results in a gripping plot that also offers an affecting insight into how artifice permeates our lives' OBSERVER. 'Neil Hegarty's rich and intriguing second novel starts off in the realm of Victorian pastiche but ends up as a gripping present-day heist plot ... [Hegarty] gives himself lots to juggle but manages with aplomb, setting the wounded trio at the book's heart on a grimly compelling collision course' DAILY MAIL.