Excerpt from The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Swan Thieves

By Elizabeth Kostova

The Swan Thieves
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  • Hardcover: Jan 2010,
    576 pages.
    Paperback: Nov 2010,
    592 pages.

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John ran through the list: a mood stabilizer, an antianxiety drug, and an antidepressant, all at good doses. I picked up a pen and pad from my desk.

"Diagnosis?"

John told me, and I wasn't surprised. "Fortunately for us, he signed a release of information in the ER while he was still talking. We've also just gotten copies of records from a psychiatrist in North Carolina he saw about two years ago. Apparently the last time he saw anybody."

"Does he have significant anxiety?"

"Well, he won't talk about it, but I think he shows it. And this isn't his first round of meds, according to the file. In fact, he arrived here with some Klonopin in a two-year-old bottle in his jacket. It probably wasn't doing him much good without a mood stabilizer on board. We finally got hold of the wife in North Carolina — ex-wife, actually — and she told us some more about his past treatments."

"Suicidal?"

"Possibly. It's hard to do a proper assessment, since he won't talk. He hasn't attempted anything here. He's more like enraged. It's like keeping a bear in a cage — a silent bear. But with this kind of presentation, I don't want to just release him. He's got to stay somewhere for a while, have someone figure out what's really going on, and his meds will need fine-tuning. He did sign in voluntarily, and I bet he'll go pretty willingly at this point. He doesn’t like it here."

"So you think I can get him to talk?" It was our old joke, and John rose obligingly to it.

"Marlow, you could get a stone to talk."

"Thanks for the compliment. And thanks especially for messing up my lunch break. Does he have insurance?"

"Some. The social worker is on that."

"All right — have him brought out to Goldengrove. Tomorrow at two, with the files. I'll check him in."

We hung up, and I stood there wondering if I could squeeze in five minutes of sketching while I ate, which I like to do when my schedule is heavy; I still had a one thirty, a two o'clock, a three o'clock, a four o'clock, and then a meeting at five o'clock. And tomorrow I would put in a ten-hour day at Goldengrove, the private residential center where I'd worked for the previous twelve years. Now I needed my soup, my salad, and the pencil under my fingers for a few minutes.

I thought, too, of something I had forgotten about for a long time, although I used to remember it often. When I was twenty-one, freshly graduated from Columbia (which had filled me with history and English as well as science) and headed already for medical school at the University of Virginia, my parents volunteered enough money to help me go with my roommate to Italy and Greece for a month. It was my first time out of the United States. I was electrified by paintings in Italian churches and monasteries, by the architecture of Florence and Siena. On the Greek island of Páros, which produces the most perfect, translucent marble in the world, I found myself alone in a local archaeological museum.

This museum had only one statue of value, which stood in a room by itself. Herself: she was a Nike, about five feet tall, in battered pieces, with no head or arms, and with scars on her back where she'd once sprouted wings, red stains on the marble from her long entombment in the island earth. You could still see her masterful carving, the draperies like an eddy of water over her body. They had reattached one of her little feet. I was alone in the room, sketching her, when the guard came in for a moment to shout, "Close soon!" After he left, I packed up my drawing kit, and then — without any thought of the consequences — I approached the Nike one last time and bent to kiss her foot. The guard was on me in a second, roaring, actually collaring me. I've never been thrown out of a bar, but that day I was thrown out of a one-guard museum.

I picked up the phone and called John back, caught him still in his office.

Excerpted from The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova. Copyright © 2010 by Elizabeth Kostova. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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