Mystery Books for Sale

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by Jeffrey Archer
St Martin's Press, March 2006
384 pages
ISBN: 0312353723

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Anna Petrescu is a widely recognized expert on the Impressionists. Her photographic memory allows her to mentally catalog the collections of hundreds of clients around the world. When a slight error in judgment jeopardizes a huge sale for her employer, Sotheby's, Anna is fired.

She takes a position with Fenston Financial where she's in charge of valuation and retention for the corporation's art collection, as well as valuing various bank clientele's pieces. Bryce Fenston, the owner of the company, strikes her as a man "who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." His soul is shallower that that. He is simply trying to bilk some of the most famous art estates in the world.

Anna came to the United States from Romania when she was in her teens. Bryce Fenston too is Romanian, formerly known as Nicu Munteanu, a henchman for the Ceusescu regime. After the fall of his boss, he emigrated and reinvented himself as a Wall Street financial wizard and opened Fenston Financial. He wants the most impressive art collection in the world -- not for the joy, but for the power.

Jack Delaney is a prototypical FBI agent with a penchant for his mother's Irish stew and an eye on Anna and Fenston. He is investigating the deaths of three victims who all had art collections, were deeply in debt and had large loans into Fenston Financial.

When Fenston makes a bid to acquire the most famous Van Gogh pieces, Self-Portrait with a Bandaged Ear, from one of his clients, Anna is in charge of valuing the painting. She fits the profile of the modern day art pirate, and Delaney follows every move she makes.

The story catapults between New York, London, Budapest, Hong Kong and Tokyo, giving each locale a true sense of place. Archer captures his evil characters well, breathing life into even the most hideous creature -- the female assassin known as Krantz.

Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this book is the portrayal of 9/11 from the perspective of a person inside the towers. I relieved the morning, seeing in my mind's eye the towers being hit and falling, the mad rush of people fleeing the scene covered in ash and soot, even the bodies dropping from the sky. It was so finely wrought that I had to put the book down for the rest of the day.

Reviewed by J. T. Ellison, March 2006

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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