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ARTIFACT
by D. Grant Geddes
St. Crispin's Press, April 2002
242 pages
$25.95
ISBN: 0971063206


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Peter Grant, the protagonist of this novel, has a fascinating profession, „I¼m a New York based fine art expertä.My work mainly involves authentication, but sometimes I¼m hired to find works of art gone missing¾(13,14). His marriage recently broke up and he¼s alone and stuck in New York for the summerãa slow time for the New York art world as the rich and famous have gone to their summer residences. On July 5th Peter wakes up feeling rather sorry for himself. Then a call comes through from Lloyd¼s of London; an Austrian archduke who lives in Venice had several valuable Renaissance oil paintings stolen and Peter¼s expertise was needed. Here is a cure for boredom, if not for sadness. Claire, his estranged wife was now a Venetian resident and since she was on vacation he was able to stay at her place instead of an impersonal hotel.

When Peter arrives in Venice he has an appointment to meet the policeman in charge of the investigation, but the Venetian Commissario is investigating a fresh robbery and murder so the art expert must sit and wait. As the days go by Peter and the cop work on the case; very soon it becomes obvious that the theft from the archduke is just one of a series of Ýrelated crimes. ÝA Vatican art expert, the local police, and Peter work hard to solve the thefts; the closer they come to the answer the more danger for Peter.

In the Preface Geddes explains his love for Venice and his affection becomes obvious as one reads the book. Venice actually is a main character in this novel. Her beauty, history, „decadent splendor [and]ämelancholy character¾ [Preface] form a perfect backdrop for a search for stolen ancient art. I left the story wishing I could board a plane, fly to Italy and proceed straight to Venice.

This fast moving story, narrated completely from the point of view of the main character, engages the reader¼s attention and keeps one turning the pages to discover the criminal(s)? In an interesting trip through Venetian aristocracy and the intrigue of the art world the author leads the reader down many paths and toward several possible offenders, only to have one realize he/she couldn¼t be the culprit. In spite of several red herrings, the ending is a surprise as well as suspenseful and satisfying.

Geddes appears to have some difficulty with characterization. The female characters, with the exception of Princess Irena, seem shallow and one dimensional; one is unable to develop any affection or dislike for them. In fact it appears as if each, whether villain or heroine, was the same woman acting many different roles. Ý„Princess Irena Dashikova, the former prima ballerina of the Moscow Ballet during the nineteen-thirties and forties¾ (36) is portrayed with such warmth and affection, that one wishes to meet this idiosyncratic woman. In fact one wonders if much of her personality is not similar to some well loved woman in Geddes life thus making her so much easier to depict.

The dialogue also is somewhat disappointing. Mr. Geddes seems to try too hard for sophisticated repartee on one hand, and on the other endeavors (with over the top emotions and lurid prose) to indicate the ethnicity of the Italian characters.

Reviewed by Martha Hopkins, July 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)


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