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.
Genre: Mystery / Thriller
Published by: Linda Ferreri Trustee
Publication Date: May 7, 2019
Number of Pages: 315
Purchase Links: Amazon | Kindle | Apple Books | Goodreads
Read an excerpt:
Early on in the Hard-heads case, at one of the bar association luncheons, Judge Pirandello had positioned himself next to one of his former clerks who was now a successful litigator in the Probate Court. Biggers, by name. There was the introductory chat about the wellbeing of their family members and the joke about the latest case here or there. The dialogue was familiar to both of them. The Hard-heads plaintiff was a problem person, the judge had learned, and he needed to be squashed to put an end to mostly frivolous claims, driven by greed. Everybody in the family knew it, the judge heard. He knew the type. The Probate Court was littered with greedy relatives, angry children with buxom young stepmothers wearing expensive jewelry their fathers had bought. He knew it all. The judge wanted rid of this case, and so he was pleased to learn that it was not worthy of His Honor’s dignified much less close attention. The Hard-heads case had to go.
It would have gone long before now, the judge was thinking to himself as he growled into the cup of black tea, but these damned people had refused to take the hint, refused to be cowed or put in their places. Here and there at the few hearings he had conducted over this motion or that, he had seen a shrug of the shoulders by one or another lawyer.
“What could we do?” They might as well have said that out loud. The judge understood.
His knee was throbbing, but Judge Pirandello refused to have it replaced. The fact that cold weather was coming on made it worse. The goddamned orthopedic surgeon was another money-grubber. Were there no professionals left in his world who were not money-grubbers? He stretched his corpulence forward over the edge of his chair to reach for his footstool, then winced as he elevated the bad leg. He yelled out for Mary to bring him another cup of tea. Then, he opened the enormous file on the small table beside his chair.
In Re the Estate of Seri. He hated even the name. Italian people should not behave in this fashion, he thought. His own father would have come back from the dead to beat the daylights out of his heirs if they had behaved as these people were behaving. Suing one another. Claiming fraud. All of it. Disgraceful, he thought. They were each poised to receive a generous amount of money but no, that wasn’t good enough. As with errant children, the Judge was both angry with and ashamed of the parties.
Excerpt from A Cloud of Fraud by Linda Ferreri. Copyright 2019 by Linda Ferreri. Reproduced with permission from Linda Ferreri. All rights reserved.
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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3 thoughts on “A Cloud of Fraud by Linda Ferreri”
Thanks so much for this thorough and great review. I am so glad that you liked the book. And I love Rose, too! Claire and Baldo have been around together and the two Crown of the Andes books are more complex…deeper…and all about the real Crown of the Andes that now belongs to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.
It was so good!
After reading your review, I want to pick this one up.
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