by Lisa Barr ‧ RELEASE DATE: March 1, 2022
Barr’s second novel about Nazis and art, following Fugitive Colors (2013), features an epic struggle to reclaim one spectacular purloined painting.
Carl Geisler, son of Nazi art thief Helmuth Geisler, is hoarding an inherited fortune of contraband art when he’s murdered by New York art impresario Margaux de Laurent. Margaux needs Carl’s cache of priceless masterpieces—the cream of French impressionism and German expressionism—to sell on the dark web. Only thus can she save her own heritage, De Laurent Galleries, from financial ruin. Dan Mansfield, the old-school crusading editor of a Chicago newspaper, is called upon by an old friend to investigate a lost painting. Enter Jules Roth, a 24-year-old journalism graduate, who hero-worships Dan. The old friend, octogenarian fashion icon Ellis Baum, designer of high-end stilettos, never divulged the wartime horrors preceding his arrival in America as a 13-year-old orphan. His mother, Anika, a German beauty queen who was the mistress of his father, Jewish banker Arno Baum, posed for Woman on Fire, the final work of Ernst Engel, a groundbreaking German expressionist executed by Hitler’s art police. Ever since Helmuth Geisler brutally dispatched Anika, Ellis has been searching for her portrait. But Woman on Fire is among Margaux’s Geisler spoils, and she’s keeping it to honor her grandfather, Charles de Laurent. A French Jewish art dealer, Charles saved many masterworks from the Nazis before being forced to sell Woman on Fire to Geisler. Stereotypes abound. Jules and her sidekick, recovered addict and art-world phenomenon Adam Chase, are stunning. Margaux, archvillain, is beautiful in a Dorian Gray sort of way, her inner rot concealed in the attic of her id. Margaux also weaponizes words: “I don’t do delicate.” She, Ellis, and Dan command the reader’s interest due to their desperate pursuit of their obsessions. That interest flags whenever the torch is passed to the more decorative, blander characters.
This novel does not do subtle.
Pub Date: March 1, 2022
Page Count: 416
Review Posted Online: Dec. 24, 2021
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2022
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