Kidnapping, coastal Maine, art forgery, the FBI, murder, secret identities, artists and romance all share the palette in this mystery by Wanda Shelton, who wastes no time providing readers with a dead body.
Leah Dawson, a Memphis designer, is ready for a week-long painting workshop at a scenic Maine inn. It’s not only the art experience she’s anticipating, but also much-need time and space away from John Phelps, an ex-beau who has been stalking her.
On the first day of the workshop, Leah meets many of the workshop attendees at a welcome reception, including Nate Parker, an undercover FBI agent. He’s acting as the spouse of one of the artists in the hopes of catching those involved in an art forgery heist. There’s immediate chemistry between Nate and Leah. Later, she’s certain she sees Phelps nearby. Things really get rolling when she finds a corpse washed up on the shore the same day.
Eventually, it emerges that the murder, a kidnapping and art counterfeiters are all intertwined. This keeps Nate busy as he works to solve the cases, while Leah suspects that Phelps could be involved.
Shelton’s novel is over-populated with characters, including dozens of workshop participants and law enforcement. Most are superfluous and one-dimensional. Fortunately, Leah, Nate and a few others more crucial to the narrative are more nuanced.
At nearly 500 pages, the over-abundance of characters and a reliance on minutiae inhibits the pace of an otherwise inventive plot; for example, consider this unnecessary moment when Leah and her friend go to lunch: “The hostess greeted them and led them to a table by the window and handed them their menus.” Numerous typos and missing punctuation also interrupt the story’s flow.
Despite all, the author creates intrigue through tone, setting and dialogue. The multiple storylines of the murder, art forgery and romance are imaginative and should keep mystery readers turning pages.
Also available as an ebook.