1973. Art historian Fabiola Bennett sees herself as a prudently observant deer who becomes a daring and even mischievous lioness if the situation calls for it. And that’s exactly what’s required when greedy criminals steal, forge, and tamper with treasured artwork. When the crooks add murder to their list of crimes, the chaos is complete.
A mysterious note is delivered anonymously at the door of the National Gallery in London, and the director immediately calls Fabiola’s office in Oslo and pleads with her to come without delay. The message is confusing, but it seems one of her favorite eighteenth-century portraits is in trouble.
Fabiola hops on the first plane and meets up with her vibrant side-kick Pippa Yates and the ever-loyal Detective Inspector Cary Green from New Scotland Yard. But she is not naïve enough to think untangling the purpose and meaning of the mysterious note will be as simple as a walk in Hyde Park. These things never are.
1750. Newly married Robert and Frances Andrews, members of the landed gentry of Suffolk, England, hire young and talented Thomas Gainsborough to paint their wedding portrait. Their desire is a lovely conversation piece showing their wealth and class, an artwork to remember them by for generations to come.
Little do they know the gifted artist portrays their personalities exactly how he perceives them, and the artistic symbolism is not as flattering as they’d hoped for. Even the looming clouds in the distance promise a troublesome future.
This is the first book in a new dual timeline series by Heidi Eljarbo—an intriguing spin-off from the much-loved Soli Hansen Mysteries.
Fans of Lucinda Riley, Rhys Bowen, Kathleen McGurl, Kate Morton, and Katherine Neville will love this cozy historical art mystery, which takes the readers back to the nostalgia of the groovy seventies and the classical Georgian era of the eighteenth century.
AN OLDER MAN—distinguished but a bit worn-looking—stood in Mr. Wilson’s office when Fabiola returned.
Leaning forward, Mr. Wilson asked, “What did you find out?”
She opened her mouth to answer when the older man cut in. “Aren’t you going to introduce us, Wilson?”
The museum director wiped his forehead again. “Of course. This is Fabiola Bennett, our art history specialist. Fabiola, may I present Detective Chief Inspector Goode, head of New Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit?”
Goode leaned his head back and shook her hand. “I know your mother. A true art connoisseur extraordinaire. I’ve never met anyone as gifted or as pleasant in my entire life.”
Fabiola was used to people complimenting her mother, and Goode seemed sincere, despite his self-important tone and demeanor.
“She has always been quite remarkable when it comes to art…and wise in many other things, as well,” Goode continued, placing his folded hands on his protruding stomach. “Fabiola Bennett. Hmm. Your first name is unusual for a Norwegian, is it not?”
“It certainly is. I was the only Fabiola in my class at school,” she said with a playful smile. “My parents named me after a seventeenth-century woman they shared a special bond with.”
His face still solemn, he looked her up and down through half-closed lids. “So, now you’re here.”
“Yes, Director Wilson contacted me.” Goode wandered around the room. “I’m not sure a woman like yourself can be of help in this matter.”
“A woman such as myself?” She concentrated on her best behavior despite a growing frustration toward the haughty, old gentleman.
He didn’t respond. Maybe he didn’t have a reason for saying what he’d said. Although she just met him, she pegged him as the type to speak just so he could hear his own voice. Fabiola’s impatience grew. At this point, only she and the criminal or criminals were aware of the fake Gainsborough. As soon as the detective chief inspector had finished establishing his position as almighty and powerful, she’d explain the situation. She crossed her arms and began to tap her foot. He just needed to hurry up.
Goode picked up a heavy paperweight from the oak desk and then replaced it. “Well, as I said, Soli Hansen Lange has always been exceptional in her knowledge of the various artists, their work, and the era they lived in. I believe she has an eidetic memory.” He stopped walking and scratched his head. “Scotland Yard’s Art and Antiques Unit was established six years ago. Only second to the Italian Carabinieri, we house the world’s most important national register of art. We’ve built a unit with experience and solid documentation on art theft. We deal with fraud and forgery, and we—”
A younger man stepped out of the shadow near the heavily draped window. Fabiola moved back a bit before recognition made her smile. How had she missed his presence?
“And we need Fabiola Bennett’s competence,” Cary said. “Sir, I promise you she’s in every way her mother’s daughter.” He strode straight to Fabiola and kissed her cheek. “Hello, Fabsi.”
“Cary.” She stood for a moment, smiling, taking in the way his eyes narrowed as he flashed that boyish, infectious grin and how his wavy, dark-blond hair fell around his ears.
Goode huffed. “Detective Inspector Green. How unprofessional. First, you arrive late to our meeting here, then this display—”
“My apologies, sir. But Mrs. Bennett and I go far back. We haven’t seen each other in quite a while.” He turned back to Fabiola. “I believe what our detective chief inspector meant to say was that with criminals threatening our country’s cultural heritage, a dedicated unit like ours is important.”
The detective chief inspector nodded and huffed again. “Quite so.” “Well, London, being the second-largest art market in the world, needs a unit like yours,” Fabiola said. “Only New York deals with more art than you do.”
Goode put his hat on and picked up his walking cane. “I’ll let you take care of this matter, Green. Meet me in my office at five sharp with an update on this mysterious note.”
“Very well, sir.”
Goode had spent his visit conveying his importance and that of his agency, and then he’d bid them farewell before she could explain what she’d discovered. She didn’t even try to stop him from leaving. She’d much rather discuss the matter with a trusted friend.
Cary turned to Fabiola. “Mysterious note? What’s that about?”
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Meet Heidi Eljarbo
Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don’t want to go near.
Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.
After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have fifteen grandchildren—so far—in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.
Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.
Heidi’s favorites are family, God’s beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.
Connect with Heidi
Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/heidi-eljarbo
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Heidi-Eljarbo/e/B073D852VG/