Arsenic and Old Paint

Arsenic And Old Paint_HaileyLind_8069947




This is the fourth and presumably final book in the Art Lover’s Mystery series. This book has a copyright date of 2010 and, as I write this review, it is 2014. The writing team of Hailey Lind, two sisters, has apparently disbanded. The only member of the duo seemingly still in the writing business is Juliet Blackwell, and she is actively involved in two other series.

I make note of these facts because of the manner in which the novel ends. But before the book can end, it has to begin. At the end of the previous novel, “Brush with Death,” Annie Kincaid went into the art appraisal business with Michael Johnson. It is actually a front for an ongoing FBI sting operation with Annie and Michael sharing in the rewards associated with recovering stolen art. As we begin this novel, Michael is on probation with the Feds but has been AWOL for the past week. Frank DeBenton has disassociated himself from Annie even though the FBI stopped him from following through on the threats he made in the previous novel. And Annie is repairing and duplicating the wall covering in a Nob Hill mansion that has become a misogynistic males-only private club for the uber-wealthy.

And by the second page of the first chapter, Annie has followed screams to a bedroom in that males-only club. There, in a bathtub, she finds the body of a man, a sword in his chest and posed in a tableau of Jacques Louis David’s painting, “Death of Marat.” Later that day, Annie is hired by an insurance investigator to locate an original Gauguin that had been stolen from a member of that same club where she had found the body that morning. Then, that same day, Frank breaks his silence and asks Annie to locate a century-old bronze statue called “Resting Hermes,” stolen from Frank’s club, which is located in the same area as the males-only club. Coincidence anyone?

As the reader can imagine, the “coincidences” are anything but and the remainder of the book, scene by scene, brings the relationship between the murder, the Gauguin and the Hermes into focus. But that is not all the author team brings into focus. Hailey Lind finally and pointedly focuses on the romantic relationship between Annie and Frank as well as the personal relationship between Annie and Michael – at the very end of the book.

Every rope, whether it is a plot thread or a clothesline, is composed of a minimum of three threads, braided together and meshed to form an entity greater than and stronger than any of its individual threads. The Rule of Three always applies.

By the last page of the book, Annie is left hanging by only one thread of her rope. The author duo has dramatically frayed the other two threads within millimeters of their existence. And then the series just ends, with the main character suspended in mid-air, the edge of the cliff above her and the hard surface of the ground below.

Perhaps the author team did not know that they would disband when this book was published. Maybe they were just succumbing to the trend of that time when cliffhangers seemed to be all the rage. Perhaps the writing team had not yet experienced the actual rage and the financial backlash that a significant cliffhanger ending engendered. Nevertheless, the writing team did end, the series did end and the book got thrown across the room.

I felt absolutely cheated and insulted by an author who would not only end a series with a cliffhanger but would end it with two cliffhangers. But after a few hours and in a much calmer state, I went back and read the last 30 pages again – slowly. And that’s when I realized that the novel didn’t really end with two cliffhangers. It didn’t even end in one cliffhanger. The author duo may not blatantly spell out the culminations of those two storylines – Frank and Michael – but we know how they end. We really do know.

Cover Art from Goodreads


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