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Saturday, December 29, 2018

Art History Thriller Not Quite Thrilling Enough

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

As the daughter of a passionate collector, 19-year-old Paulien Mertens knows art.  She especially loves the Post-Impressionist paintings in her father's collection and longs to turn the family's barn into a museum showcasing the genre.  Those dreams turn to dust when her father—along with many other art lovers—become the victims of a multi-million dollar con game perpetuated by Paulien's fiance, George Everard.  Implicated along with her lover, Paulien is forced to flee Belgium in shame.  It's 1922 and she is penniless and alone.  Not without a bit of pluck, she runs to Paris, where she reinvents herself as a French art critic named Vivienne Gregsby.  When she's hired as a translator by an eccentric American art collector, Paulien is once again enfolded into the vibrant world of art that she loves so much.  As long as she keeps her true identity well hidden, she can revel in the chance to travel and consort with exciting new artists while helping Dr. Edwin Bradley acquire interesting paintings for his museum in Pennsylvania.  She encourages her boss to recover her father's precious Post-Impressionist paintings, which she vows to return to their rightful owner as soon as possible.

While Paulien schemes to make her long-held dream come to pass, she finds herself in George's clutches once again.  He wants her to do him a favor in exchange for his silence about her real identity.  Before she knows it, she finds herself in an even bigger quandary—she's being accused of murdering Dr. Edwin Bradley.  Can Paulien clear her name?  Or will she lose everything, once again?

I adored The Art Forger, B.A. Shapiro's 2012 debut, so I was excited to try another of her historical art thrillers.  Unfortunately, I wasn't as enamored of her newest, The Collector's Apprentice.  While Shapiro's depiction of the 1920s art scene in Paris is interesting enough, it gets a little too detailed for someone like me who isn't all that interested in art.  The extra information weighed down the story for me, making it drag, especially in the middle.  I also didn't care much for the cast of this novel.  Paulien is not all that sympathetic; although she wants justice for her father, her pursuit of it comes off as greedy, calculating, and manipulative.  Overall, I still enjoyed the book.  It just dragged and didn't engage me nearly as much as The Art Forger did.

(Readalikes:  Reminds me of The Art Forger by B.A. Shapiro and books by Susan Vreeland)


If this were a movie, it would be rated:

for language (one F-bomb, plus milder expletives) and mild sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  I received a finished copy of The Collector's Apprentice from the generous folks at Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review.  Thank you!

1 comment:

  1. Sorry this one fell a little short for you. Books with unsympathetic characters are never my favorites either. Especially when they drag in the middle. :)


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