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Set in Venice (Veneto)

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AMANDA PRANTERA was born in the English Midlands and is a graduate of the University of London where she read philosophy. She worked briefly as a tr anslator and television writer before publishing her first novel, Strange Loop. She lives in Rome with her physician husband and two daughters. (1986 bio)

Amanda Prantera

The Cabalist

JACKET NOTES:  Joseph Kestler does not have long to live. Leaving the doctor's office to walk home through the darkening streets of Venice, he decides that if he cannot prolong his life, there is something he can do. He will compose a testament, distilling and revealing what it has taken him a lifetime to learn. But this document will not be for just anyone: it will contain traps for the unwary, complicated puzzles and codes to keep undeserving readers away from the secrets at its core.

For like the city he loves, with its palazzi and canals that give no hint of the 1980s, Joseph is himself an anachronism: he has devoted his life to learning what everyone else has forgotten the centuries-old secrets of the Cabala. True, the Cabala, with its elaborate puzzles and long history, has little practical application in the modern world-though Joseph can certainly ease some awkward situations with a few whispered spells-but his intent study of the obscure books that line his shelves has convinced him that practicality is not the most important thing.

But now, as he feels his body growing weaker, Joseph must do something completely practical: he must find the person to whom he can entrust his testament, someone who will understand and guard its mysteries. Lately, though, he has started to doubt even the people he had thought most worthy. Joseph is beginning to suspect that Trevisan, the astute mathematician with whom he plays a weekly game of cards, has never understood the uses to which Joseph puts the complicated formulas that he obligingly deciphers. And there is Joseph's landlady, who ignores everyone until calamity strikes; and Emilio, who is kind but preoccupied with practicing his English and his basset horn.

Besides, Joseph has a more immediate problem: the Catcher, the dark, elusive boy next door who delights in torturing him. Joseph has seen him drop a hook, then wait for a cat to nibble the bait so he can reel it in; he has heard the thud of cat paws thrown against his window as he works. And he suspects the Catcher will not be content with catching cats. Joseph is convinced he is really after the thing closest to Joseph's heart.

But as Amanda Prantera shows us, carefully unwinding the novel's many threads with a sure and powerful hand, Joseph will not ultimately decide who reads his testament. Even a cabalist can make mistakes, and Joseph's error is that in his concern for the future, he has neglected the past. As we follow Joseph deeper and deeper into a realization of the true meaning of curses and magic, we come to understand how the power of the past, of Venice, and of the Cabala join and intensify.

A surprising and original novel that surpasses even her highly praised first book, Strange Loop, Amanda Prantera's The Cabalist leads us through a captivating, frightening realm of secrets.
(© Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.)