THE MEDUSA AMULET, by Robert Masello

Masello has authored six other books in this genre, plus several books on the occult. He eminently knows his subject. Lovers of cutting-edge intrigue, of the occult, of alternative history, lots of nasty bad guys and two engaging good guys (one a female Italian art historian with a conspiracy complex) will find this cross-century thriller a lot of fun. Benvenuto Cellini, 16th century Italy's bad boy genius goldsmith dabbles in the occult with terrifying results. The action switches to 21st century Chicago where talented art historian David Franco is sent on a quest by the mysterious Kathryn Van Owen: find a mirror with a medusa head on one side and bring it back to her. Unaware of VanOwen's real motives, and that all previous searchers have turned up dead, Franco arrives in Florence and at once meets obstreperous Olivia Levi, whose take on the occult includes the fascination Hitler and Nazi Germany had for such things. The chase heats up: bodies turn up everywhere, Franco is followed, Olivia's flat is burgled, and the back story twists and turns. Switching from one era to another can be tricky, but Masello easily accomplishes this feat. It's a long weekend read, but you'll stay up late to finish it, and will love the surprise ending. It's a 4.