Release Date: April 11, 2011
Buying Info: Amazon The Book Depository
Book Blurb (from Amazon):
How many lies does it take to get away with murder? Magazine Editor Laurel Imperiole is vacationing in Florence, Italy, with Aaron Gerrard, Chief of Detectives of New York City's 13th Precinct Identity Theft Squad. A chance encounter brings Laurel to a startling realization: she's just bumped into a dead man: Jeff Sargasso, an art dealer and husband of a close friend who supposedly died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. When he vanished, Sargasso had been brokering the sale of a priceless masterpiece that was lost during World War II to CEO Alfred Hammersmith and billionaire Miayamu Moto. Hammersmith perished along with Sargasso on 9/11, and it is believed that the access codes to the $15 million deposit--ten percent of the asking price--died with them. Could Sargasso have faked his own death to steal the money? The painting's whereabouts are unknown. Laurel enlists the help of private detective Helen McCorkendale, and together they follow the threads that lead from Florence, Italy, to New York. On the way, the women tangle with Israeli Mossad agent Lior Stern and several stop-at-nothing collectors. All are determined to have the painting for themselves. Ignoring Aaron's advice, Laurel puts their volatile relationship in jeopardy. As Helen and Laurel search for Sargasso, the painting and the money, they find themselves enmeshed in a sinister skein of lies that could end in death.
I enjoy mystery books, as as any regular reader knows so I was intrigued by this one. I was, however, hesitant about the connection to the events of September 11, 2001 in the US. Like many people I find it difficult to think and I had concerns about whether the events would be handled tactfully in the story. Happily, the events, while crucial to the initial mystery, are not the central theme of the book and they are handled tactfully. The story centers around Laurel Imperiole, a magazine editor who gets caught in the middle of an art deal that involves a man, married to a friend of hers, who was believed to have died when the Towers fell in New York City. Is he really dead? What happened to the artwork and the money? Is there a scam going on?
Motivated primarily by anger over her friend Monica's grief at her husband's supposed death, and angered that Jeff would pretend to be dead and just walk away, Laurel becomes determined to discover what happened. At first the authorities doubt Laurel's claim that she saw Jeff, but motivated by the missing money and artwork, they look into it. They aren't the only ones however. There are several story lines, all centered around the painting and the question of whether Jeff Sargasso is dead or alive and where is he, if he is alive. There were several groups of people trying to track down and retrieve both the missing artwork and the missing fifteen million dollar good faith fee. Stoler deftly mixed and wove the different strands together, creating distinct voices for each character.
I had a hard time warming up to Laurel; she was often abrasive, impulsive and rude.Her intentions were usually good but her follow through was rough and she had a tendency to do stupid things as the result of her impulsiveness. For instance, she goes to confront one of the people involved in the mystery and doesn't tell anyone: not her boyfriend the police detective, not her friend the private detective and not her worrywart father. Naturally, the consequences are unpleasant. Still, she's a loyal friend, courageous, persistent and caring.
At times, the story felt as if were a sequel or part of a series, with many references to prior events. It may have simply been Stoler trying to establish a back story and flesh out her characters as this is her debut book. Despite that, the flow was smooth and events moved quickly but not at a confusing pace. Overall, the story is engrossing, with an interesting premise, clever twists and skillful use of current affairs. It doesn't go in the direction that you think it will, and I liked that.
It's definitely worth reading and it will hold your attention.
I received an eARC from the publisher for review.