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Synopsis

As gifted as any of the Old Masters, portrait and landscape painter John Andrews has an extraordinary talent. He also has an extraordinary secret – at almost 600 years old, the reclusive artist now living in England's Lake District is still as youthful as he was back in the 1460s.

Born Luca di Stefano in early Renaissance Tuscany, he is apprenticed to the great fresco painter, Piero della Francesca. Luca enjoys perfect health – no disease ever touches him – but as the years pass, he realises that there is something else profoundly mysterious about him: he is not ageing.

At sixty, his youthful looks become a threat to his life when a fanatical and over-zealous Church wants him burnt at the stake as an heretic, a servant of the Devil. Fleeing to Naples, he adopts a new identity and starts a new life, the first of many artistic personas through the centuries. But the threat of discovery and its consequences are never far away.

Fast forward to 2009 when John Andrews’ DNA is profiled. As the mystery of its full significance is slowly unravelled, John's existence is again threatened: it is not only geneticists who are interested in his incredible DNA, there are others desperate for the secret of John’s longevity who will stop at nothing to get it. And to compound John's problems, an art historian is convinced that he has unmasked a major forger.

An international, fast-moving suspense thriller set throughout the world during the past six centuries, Rare Traits interweaves the present and the past, self-preservation and murder, art history and forensic science as it unfolds the tale of the apparently immortal John Andrews. It traces his lovers, his families, his enemies and friends, and above all it traces the challenges he faces in order to survive. For no matter how long he lives, one thing is certain: John can never stop looking over his shoulder.

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