LIES, BETRAYAL AND EXTORTION
The story begins about 6 months after the conclusion of “Shooting Gallery,” the second novel in the Art Lover’s Mystery series. Annie Kincaid is working to restore two murals at an area columbarium when she takes a midnight break, strolling through the attached cemetery. She finds a grad student at a grave, photographing the crypt for her thesis on public grieving. Finding out that Annie is an art restorer, the grad student tells her that the columbarium’s copy of a famous Raphael painting may not really be a copy but the original. Before Annie can get more information, a masked grave robber, hiding in the very crypt being photographed, attacks them.
Knowing that the original Raphael is supposed to be in an Italian museum, Annie inspects the columbarium’s gallery. She quickly determines that the painting in question is definitely not the original and is not even the certified centuries-old copy that it is supposed to be. It is, in fact, a recently digitized computer print. Annie then asks Frank DeBenton to use his art security company’s contacts to verify the originality of the Raphael in Italy.
Almost immediately, the grad student is murdered, Annie is assaulted, and a web of lies and extortion is perpetrated. Everyone is lying. Those associated with the grad student are lying. The employees and volunteers for the columbarium are lying. Michael Johnson is definitely lying (those spots are never going to change). Even Frank is lying, if only by omission. And Annie has been so indoctrinated since childhood to fear the police that she cannot bring herself to tell them the whole truth either. Soon the fallout from all the deception becomes life threatening.
But it is the request for Frank to contact the Italian museum that serves as the catalyst for not one, but two, extortions. One threatens Annie’s existence; the other threatens her grandfather’s. At this point, the stage is set, so to speak, and we expect the next 300 pages to take us tensely but naturally to an acceptable resolution, as occurred in the first two books. However, when Annie discovers who is complicit in the threat against her grandfather, we realize that the expected resolution is a myth and the author duo intends to wrench the story line in a 90-degree twist.
Hailey Lind incorporates art history with the history of San Francisco in a flowing manner. The author duo provides this background through Annie’s conversations and thoughts, laying out just enough information for the scenes and machinations to make sense.
Since we are viewing the world from Annie’s POV only, we are treated to both hilarious internal monologues and serious introspections into her motivations and actions. Therefore, this is not a spoof or a Stephanie Plum knock-off. Nor is it a warm and fuzzy cozy with an HEA guaranteed to please. This is a serious mystery with a serious protagonist who has serious problems in both her professional and personal realms. And she has no super abilities to rely on, either in intelligence or physical strength, only a determination to succeed and a lot of friends who care enough to help.
The backstories for the major characters are not summarized and the tale begins with the assumption that the reader is quite familiar with those characters. This entry also feels like a transition novel, basing itself on the events of the past, but using those events to propel both the protagonist and the reader in a new direction. There is one more book in the series, and we definitely leave this novel with a starting place for the next.
Cover Art from Goodreads