I received this book from a Goodreads giveaway. My review of it appears here and below:
This is a very well written book. It's really two books, a straight forward police procedural married to a more challenging narrative relating to a painting and its origins.
Either part alone would be a nice 3-star book, however the two combined with Nevala-Lee's skill make this a 4-star book. And when you add the wonderful ending, it's definitely 5-star.
The book begins by setting up the two parts with an art auction at Sotheby's for a recently discovered painting by Marcel Duchamp, Study for Etant donnés, and on the police procedural front a body is discovered under a boardwalk that had apparently been there for years.
The painting sells for 11 million, over 3 times the expected price, and that discrepancy fuels an investigation by art mutual fund researcher Maddy Blume that eventually turns tragic. This investigation drags Maddy through peculiar historical organizations and cults including the Rosicrucian Order (Order of the Rose Cross), Ordo Templi Orientis, Cabaret Voltaire, Dadaism, and even the Society of Pataphysics.
It's quite a trip and I did spend some time on Wiki looking up things. While one might think that these supposedly long dead organizations would hold no current danger, why then are Maddy and her colleagues being followed and threatened? Could these secret societies still exist and have powerful allies protecting them?
Alan Powell, a British SOCA agent & Rachel Wolfe, a recent graduate of Quantico, are involved in the murder investigation. They lead from the rear for bureaucratic reasons and that informal role allows them a lot of latitude with the investigation.
While this aspect of the book isn't as colorful, it lends a central cohesiveness to the narration which is invaluable by the end of the book. A number of encounters with the Russian Mob and a recently unemployed assassin do add some color to this part.
The three characters I mentioned are quite well drawn and I could easily see them forming the central core for a series of books. The Icon Thief is so good that I hope to see more books like this from Nevala-Lee.
That's the end of my review. There's a lot of references to artwork in the book. Here's a rather frank depiction of a woman in repose without clothes by Gustave Courbet. The name of the work is L'Origine du monde and it plays a pivotal role in the end of the book. It's a case of hiding is the worst thing you can do. I'm not sure if the author was making a playful stab, if you will, at the graphic nature of the painting or not.
The book, The Icon Thief, will be released in a few weeks (March 6, 2012) on the Signet label and the price is likely to be $9.99
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