Copyright: Sept 2010 (Perseverance Press) 272 pgs
Series: 4th in Art Lover's Mysteries
Sensuality: Adult references and situations
Mystery Sub-genre: Amateur Sleuth
Main Character: Former art forger Annie Kincaid, now owns a decorative "faux" painting business
Setting: Modern day, San Francisco California
Obtained Through: Library
Annie is on a faux finish job at the exclusive (meaning wealthy men only) Fleming Mansion when she and her workers follow a scream to find a dead man...in a tub...with a sword in his chest. Is it just Annie's imagination or does the scene really look like a recreation of the famous painting "The Death of Marat." This reunited Annie with the local police detective Annette Crawford who knows Annie a little too well from the prior books. Annie is convinced something shady is going on in the Fleming Mansion.
Annie had become business partners with a "former" art thief when the FBI Art Squad asked them to run an online art appraisal website in hopes of snagging some stolen art. Through this Annie gets a job offer from an insurance adjuster asking for help in finding a supposedly stolen-but maybe insurance fraud surrounding a Gauguin painting. Naturally the preconceived idea is that she maintains her connections to the art world's criminal element. Then Annie's influential and attractive landlord Frank (a mutual attraction but seemingly oil-and-water relationship) asks for her help in finding a stolen life-size bronze statue of Hermes stolen from a lesser social club. Just to make it interesting, the super hot "former" art thief Michael picks now to re-enter her life.
Annie is a fun and snarky sleuth who learned determination from a pit bull. She ends up running down the three story lines and delivers some laughs too. I will warn readers, her investigations take her into tunnels under San Francisco and even into a "Sex Club" running down clues and leads - there is never anything explicit though. There are laughs even in the most unlikely scenes, so don't let this scare you away. Her dilemma between wealthy Frank and unpredictable Michael comes across as plausible. You end up cheering for Annie, the underdog who is remaking her life and doing her best to be on the lawful path and be respectable.
The surprise breakout stars of the book are a pair of homeless guys who try to help Annie with information on the stolen statue of Hermes and keep popping up in the book. These guys were great and funny. And a close second was the character of Wesley Fleming of the original Fleming Mansion. He gets honorary membership to the club but is somewhat an outcast, probably because he is socially backwards and fascinated with bats. He becomes part of Annie's merry band aiding her to solve these cases.
The multiple cases all have some relationship to one another and the plot is solid. The mystery itself has a few twists and I didn't see the killer coming. The tense confrontation with the killer is great and the short wrap answers the remaining questions and even a few surprises. The ending seems to point to Annie being given a clear shot with one of her two beaus.
Here is a feline take on the classic painting Girl with a Pearl Earring - Vermeer goes furry as the artist says.