TOO MUCH IN TOO LITTLE SPACE
This is the second entry in the Art Lover’s Mystery series, formerly called the Annie Kincaid Mystery series. While the action in this novel follows the conclusion of the previous by about 6 months, this is not a standalone. Very little of the backstory established in the first novel is repeated but is necessary to fully understand the current dynamics.
The story opens about a week before Thanksgiving with Annie in attendance at the opening of a new metal sculpture exhibit at Anthony Brazil’s gallery. As she and Anthony stroll through the exhibit, Annie notices that part of one sculpture is not metal but is the body of the featured artist. Just as the police arrive at the gallery, the alarms at the adjacent Brock Museum sound. A Chagall painting is missing and one of Annie’s friends is suspected of complicity in the theft. Bryan Boissevain was a member of a tour group that caused a massive distraction just as the Chagall disappears. Annie deduces that the tour guide was none other than an important character from the first novel, an international art thief using the name Michael X. Johnson.
When the owner of the Brock Museum threatens Bryan’s life unless the painting is returned, Annie is determined to find the Chagall. At the same time, she is commissioned to facilitate the return of a famous sculpture to its owners, after the artist refused to return it following some repairs. Coincidentally, that artist is a former friend and current enemy of the artist found dead in the gallery. On the very next day, Frank DeBenton (another important character from the first novel) commissions Annie to repair a Picasso damaged during transport by the art security firm he owns.
And all this happens in the first 35 pages of the book. The question then becomes one of how all these events are related to each other, if at all. For the remainder of the book, the author weaves these elements in, out and around, with Annie being put in both ethical and mortal danger before the story concludes.
Hailey Lind crafts a story of murder, both current and past, and a story of past relationships long thought dead that impact on current lives. It is a story of lies, revenge, blackmail, family ties, pride, infidelity, thievery, forgery, insurance fraud, drugs and arms dealing.
In fact, it is a story with too many motivations encompassing too many characters in too short of a time frame. By the final denouement, instead of being satisfied with the outcome, I just felt dazed and confused. Too many major components were left hanging – unexplained entirely or just brushed over.
On a positive note, this book does have fine comedic relief in the midst of the tense and life-threatening events. The rejoinders, retorts and repartee are often hilarious. And Annie’s internal fight to remain a legitimate artist in spite of her childhood background in forgery is expounded upon and severely tested.
Hailey Lind expands that fight to remain legitimate into Annie’s personal life as well. The author team writes Annie as a person whose moral compass struggles hard to stay pointed at true north. The team writes Annie as a person who is attracted to both Michael and Frank but who consciously fights her hormones and refuses to pursue either – Michael because he is everything she once was and never wants to be again and Frank because he is involved with the mysterious, though never present, Ingrid.
But, above all, Hailey Lind writes Annie as a woman of purpose. Though flawed by her childhood upbringing, she is a woman intensely loyal to her friends and to her profession. She has moments of intense clarity and then can’t seem to see the proverbial forest for the trees.
In summary, I feel that the author duo created a murder mystery with more plot threads than they were able to handle well. But I also feel that they were able to craft the character of Annie in a superb manner. And for that reason, I will continue with the series.
Cover Art from Goodreads.