Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book Review: Brush with Death by Hailey Lind (Art Lover's Mysteries #3)

Stars: 5 out of 5
Pros: Fun romp with great characters
Cons: Climax a bit over the top
The Bottom Line:
A wild art caper
You will not want to put down
Annie entertains

All Brushes with Death Should be this Fun

Somehow, I let almost two years slip by between my visits with Annie Kincaid.  I'm not quite sure how that happened because this is a very fun series, and Brush With Death, the third, is just as much fun.

Annie Kincaid runs a faux finishing business in San Francisco, but she really struggles with her past.  She was arrested while a teen for art forgery, a skill she learned from her grandfather, an art forger still on the run.  She can use those skills to satisfy any client, but she also must continue to live with that shadow over her in the art community.

Annie's latest job is restoring the ceiling in the Chapel of the Chimes in Oakland.  While taking a break from the work late one night, she wanders in the cemetery next door and finds graduate student Cindy Tanaka outside one of the more ornate mausoleums.  As the two are talking, someone dressed in a ghoul mask comes out of the mausoleum, and tries to run past them.  While the ghoul gets away, Cindy manages to get the box he was trying to steal.

Meanwhile, Cindy has also hinted to Annie that the copy of Rembrandt's La Fornarina that Chapel of the Chimes has might not be a copy but the real thing.  When Annie goes to look at it, she discovers a painting that isn't either copy the chapel is supposed to have.  Even more puzzling is the appearance of Michael X. Black, notorious art thief.  He claims he's gone straight, but what is he doing near a site that might have a real Rembrandt?  Can Annie make sense of any of this?

The books in this series have never been dull, and this book was no exception.  The plot starts strongly on the first few pages and keeps going in unexpected directions and bringing in new elements until the end.  While there is a mystery to be solved, I feel like there is a large dose of caper adventure to the proceedings.  Either way, things come to a logical climax.  Okay, so the final scene might be a bit far fetched or over dramatic, but the identity of the villain is logical and solid.

Even though it had been two years since I'd read a book in this series, I had no problems jumping back into the characters and their lives.  When the series regulars showed up again, there was enough background to remind me who they were.  And their personalities were strong enough to help pull me back into their circle.  And the romantic triangle is just as tense as ever.  I need to know how that will develop.

The new characters brought in for this book were strong as well.  They didn't feel quite as developed as the returning characters, but they were developed enough to draw suspicion on themselves and make me care about the outcome.

Annie continues to narrate the book with a sense of humor, often at her own expense, that adds to the fun of the book.  I would easily get lost in the story as soon as I picked up the book.

After this book, the original publisher dropped the series.  Fortunately, a new publisher has picked up the series, and a fourth volume just came out.  Now that I've finished Brush With Death, I can't wait to find out what happens to Annie next.

Looking for more?  Check out the rest of the Art Lover's Mysteries in order.

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