Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Brush With Death - Hailey Lind

Brush With Death
An Art Lover’s Mystery
Hailey Lind


Annie Kincaid had a checkered childhood. This was due to her grandfather, the infamous art forger, who tried to mold her in his image, and very nearly succeeded. A night spent in jail on her seventeenth birthday cured her of that life, though, and now she keeps (mostly) on the straight and narrow, running her own faux-finishing business in San Francisco. To her continuing dismay, however, she’s still an outcast in the art world because of her family connections. At the moment, however, she’s engaged in one of her favorite pastimes: restoring paintings. These murals are located in the Chapel of the Chimes, a chapel and columbarium situated next to a graveyard. Annie’s contract stipulates that she work only at night, so she doesn’t disturb the visitors.

Taking a break one evening, she runs into grad student Cindy Tanaka, who is writing a dissertation on the methods of public grieving; things like leaving flowers and candles at the scenes of accidents, etc. The two women are standing outside the crypt of a long-dead child. To their shock, an individual wearing a Halloween mask leaps out of the shadows of the crypt and runs for the exit. Although he manages to escape, Cindy retrieves a box clearly stolen from the crypt. Cindy takes the box for safekeeping and will report the incident to the cemetery office in the morning.

But Cindy never arrives, and Annie’s calls to her go unanswered. Annie is especially interested in talking to her again because Cindy claimed that “a friend” told her that one of the paintings hanging in the chapel is the original of Raphael’s masterpiece, La Fornarina. Not quite willing to believe it, Annie checks out the painting, labeled a copy from the 1800s. To her dismay, she discovers a cheap digital reproduction in the frame instead of the copy. The original is supposedly hanging in Italy in the Barberini Palace. But a discussion with an Italian expert convinces her that it’s more than possible. What’s more, he offers her a deal. If she can find the original and return it to Italy, her beloved grandfather, long the object of police agencies all over the globe, will live out the rest of his life in safety.

You don’t have to be an art lover, or even have a background in art, to enjoy this series. Not quite as tightly plotted as others, the story tends to wander a bit in the middle sections. But the history of the painting, and of the chapel (a real place, as explained in the Author’s Notes) and the large cast of characters keeps things interesting. Longtime readers will be entertained by Annie’s introduction to Pete’s very large Bosnian family. Using real places and works of art gives a real immediacy to the overall story. This is a solid addition to a series that should appeal to lovers of mystery and art alike.

Rating: 7
July 2007
ISBN# 978-0-451-22179-7 (paperback)


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