Beautifully written by the Booker-winning author, this novel is the story of Simon Raikes and the restoration project he undertakes on a Venetian statue of the Madonna. He meets the wife of an important sculptor and is drawn into a dangerous liason: once again the stone virgin witnesses passion, betrayal and murder.
When conservationist Simon Raikes goes to Venice to restore a statue of the Madonna, he is unprepared for the effect this stone virgin's strange, seductive beauty and mysterious past will have on his life. As he gradually peels away the layers of dirt from the statue, he becomes increasingly haunted by its potent history of sexual passion, greed, treachery and murder. Modelled on a beautiful prostitute in fifteenth-century Venice, its sculptor paid with his life when he fell in love with her. Then, in the eighteenth-century, a lecherous nobleman consummated an illicit affair beneath the statue, recalled in salacious detail in his memoirs. As Simon becomes caught in the heady sexual spell of the Madonna's story, he is also increasingly attracted to an enigmatic Italian woman, Chiara, the wife of a sculptor, and realises that the stone virgin's violent and erotic past is once again invading the present.