A man is shot dead in front of City Hall in Philadelphia where his family is tangled in a bitter lawsuit. One brave woman, drawn there by a work of art, finds herself following a twisted trail to the hills of Le Marche in Italy to learn why. All the while, the cloud of fraud grows thicker and darker around her.
This thrilling story grabs and holds the reader from the first chapter through unexpected twists all the way to the richly satisfying ending. Art expert Claire Bliss and police Comandante Baldo are joined and antagonized by unforgettable characters in both Philadelphia and Italy. The authenticity of Ferreri’s players and their territories give special vibrance to the novel.
Lovers of the Renaissance will be drawn in immediately by the book’s cover, a painting of Mary Magdalene by Carlo Crivelli (ca. 1480) in the Rijksmuseum. Inside the book, a great art crime story unfolds together with a gem of a murder mystery.
Readers here know that my preferred genre is mystery and suspense, which can range from hardcore, blood-and-guts police procedurals, to softer Jessica-Fletcher-esque cozies, to cleverly plotted and researched historical novels, and so on. I am particularly fond of mysteries that involve books or art, so I was happy to review this madcap mystery when offered from the publisher.
There are two parallel stories happening here: a legal drama involving a (possibly) forged will, and theft of artwork by Italian Renaissance painter Carlo Crivelli. The two stories are linked by Arthur Seri, a quiet, unassuming art expert who is suing his cousins over his uncle’s will, which he believes was forged. At the same time, Arthur is working with a larger-than-life Russian to authenticate parts of a Renaissance era altar piece painted by Crivelli.
And then Arthur Seri is killed. Shot in the back on the steps of the Philadelphia Court House. Enter art expert Claire Bliss, who also happens to own a home in the Le Marche region of Italy where Carlo Crivelli painted. Claire finds herself neck-deep in a confusing and dangerous game involving fake paintings, Arthur Seri’s very Italian landlady, the above-mentioned Russian, and an Italian police chief pining for his missing wife. The action moves between Philadelphia, New York, and Italy as Ferreri weaves all the various plots and subplots together into an unexpected ending.
There is SO much going on here that I was reminded of the 1930’s era madcap mystery movies where there are lots of characters, lots of motives, and lots of movement. Ferreri does an excellent job of managing all the different strands and bringing some resolution to the two separate stories of the Crivelli paintings and the forged will. Her depiction of Rose Cicarelli is spot on for the Italian grandmas and mamas in my life, especially Rose’s comment on the very last page, which made me howl with laughter. So accurate! The characters here – Claire and Baldo – have the makings of becoming a duo in a series. I would enjoy reading more about the New York sophisticate Claire and the provincial Italian police chief Baldo. Ferreri’s experience in the art world will surely make for more entertaining books in the future. Now I’m going back to find her earlier books on the Crown of the Andes.
Read an excerpt:
Linda Ferreri is the author of several art crime novels as well as witty illustrated iBooks. She is a highly respected international art law expert who divides her time between the United States and Le Marche in Italy.
Sometimes she says her most amusing book was her first, The King of UNINI, a sophisticated little romance set in Paris.
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