Pax by John Harvey – Book Review

Pax by John Harvey – Book Review


When artist Stephen Bloodsmith creates a series of images inspired by Rubens’ trip to London in 1629, he enters a historical world of suspicion and intrigue. But will the manipulations he portrays in art spill over into the real world? When he practises deception inside his own marriage, falling in love with his model even as the romance of his wife Robyn unravels, the corrosive parallels between Bloodsmith’s and Rubens’ lives – the discovery of intimate secrets, the pain caused by desire and jealousy, the consequences of power and conflict – become hard to live with and impossible to ignore. 

Rubens believed he could make peace between the warring powers of Europe. To succeed he must win over Charles I of England, while in Paris ‘the Cardinal’ is working to frustrate him. Will nation cheat nation as people deceive one another in their personal lives? 

At once an intimate portrait of sexual pain in two centuries and a gripping depiction of international deal-making, Pax is a rich, compelling study of desire, power, art – and the search for private and public peace.



Set over two timelines, that of Rubens in 1629 and Stephen Bloodsmith in the present day.

Bloodsmith is an artist who is inspired by Rubens art and researches his life and a trip he made to London. 

Bloodsmith has a wife and daughter, but becomes obsessed with his model, Mae.

This is the story of desire, not just sexual desire but the desire for power. There’s art, politics and lots of intrigue. Beautifully written, almost poetic and a marvellous piece of historical fiction.

However, I do have to mention the sex in this novel, unfortunately the language used lets this marvellous read down a little…..’marks of the lust-beast’ really? But don’t let that put you off, this really is an engrossing read for anyone who loves historical fiction.

Thank you to Robert at Holland House Books for the opportunity to read this for free. This is my honest and unbiased review.



John Harvey (born 21 December 1938 in London) is a British author of crime fiction most famous for his series of jazz-influenced Charlie Resnick novels, based in the City of Nottingham. Harvey has also published over 90 books under various names, and has worked on scripts for TV and radio. He also ran Slow Dancer Press from 1977 to 1999 publishing poetry. The first Resnick novel, Lonely Hearts, was published in 1989, and was named by The Times as one of the 100 Greatest Crime Novels of the Century. Harvey brought the series to an end in 1998 with Last Rites, though Resnick has since made peripheral appearances in Harvey’s new Frank Elder series. The protagonist Elder is a retired detective who now lives, as Harvey briefly did, in Cornwall. The first novel in this series, Flesh and Blood, won Harvey the Crime Writers’ Association Silver Dagger in 2004, an accolade many crime fiction critics thought long overdue. In 2007 he was awarded the Diamond Dagger for a Lifetime’s Contribution to the genre. On 14th July 2009 he received an honorary degree (Doctor of Letters) from the University of Nottingham in recognition of his literary eminence and his associations with both the University and Nottingham (particularly in the Charlie Resnick novels). He is also a big Notts County fan. (Courtesy of Goodreads)


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