Friday, March 11, 2016

Counterfeit Conspiracies (Bodies of Art Book 1)

Author:  Ritter Ames
Genre:  Mystery

Henery Press
194 Pages
$2.99 Amazon
February 2, 2016
Four Stars

Laurel Beacham may have been born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but she has long since lost it digging herself out of trouble.  Her father gambled and womanized his way through the family fortune before skiing off an Alp, leaving her with more tarnish than trust fund.  Quick wits and connections have gained her a reputation as one of the world's premier art recovery experts.  The police may catch the thief, but she reclaims the missing masterpieces.

The latest assignment, however, may be her undoing.  Using every ounce of luck and larceny she possesses, Laurel must locate a priceless art icon and rescue a co-worker (and ex-lover) from a master criminal, all the while matching wits with a charming new nemesis.  Unfortunately, he seems to know where the bodies are buried - and she prefers hers isn't next.


Laurel Beacham calls herself an art recovery expert, but she is, when all is said and done, a thief.  Yes, she has noble reasons:  she steals items that were originally stolen from others and returns them, yet, thievery it is, and she is very good at it.  When we first meet her, she is recovering a priceless painting and returning it to its original owner.  This successfully handled, her next assignment is to retrieve a snuffbox in Italy.  But before she can do so, she notices a man who has obviously been searching for her; he approaches her, and she manages to avoid him quickly by finding a restroom.  Unfortunately, she also finds the body of the man who possessed the item she has been searching for.  When she quickly exits the restroom, the then-unknown man grabs her arm and steers her to a balcony, and lets it be known that he has seen her before - in several of her other disguises.    At one point she manages to elude him and decides then and there that it is time for her much-needed vacation in Lake Tahoe.

But while at Heathrow Airport in London waiting for her next plane, she gets a call from Max, her boss, and he tells her that there is another mission, to recover a prized sword that once belonged to  King Arthur.  Finding out that she will be working with her ex-lover Simon Babbage (whom she is still friendly with) she agrees and contacts him.  But when she goes to Simon's home she finds him missing, and a strange woman in residence.  Sneaking into the home, she sees that the woman has completely trashed Simon's office, so she calls and sends her on a false clue as to what she's searching for, (the sword), and manages, in the short time given, to retrieve Simon's laptop and a hidden flash drive.

When she manages to leave safely, she again encounters the man who pursued her in Italy.  All he will tell her is that his name is Jack Hawkes.  Without going into heavy detail, Laurel is soon being pursued by more people than Jack; and it seems that the rest of them don't want her to keep looking for the sword.  It also seems that no matter how many times she manages to elude Jack, he in turn manages to find her, and she realizes that they will have to work together if the sword is to be recovered safely.

I was a tad skeptical of this book almost immediately when I read in the first paragraph "the Dobermans, Zeus and Apollo"...which were Higgins' dogs in the television series Magnum, P.I.  I was left wondering if there would be more references to other series, later on; gratefully, no.  Saying that, I will also say that this book is a fast, heart-stopping roller coaster ride.  Laurel finds herself in various perilous situations, both with and without Jack.  Although her quest is for the sword, she admits to herself that her main quest is to find Simon, whom she believes has been kidnapped by her nemesis Moran.  To this end, she is willing to do whatever it takes, preferably without Jack.

The reason for this is because while it seems Jack knows nearly everything about her, she knows nothing but his name.  He asks her to trust him, but won't answer any of her questions.  In this, I must agree with Laurel.  Who would trust anyone if they asked you to follow them blindly, no matter what.  He's given her no indication that he's on her side, and indeed, he may not be in the end.

While I really wanted to like this book, I've always felt that in any book you need to like the decent (or 'good' if you will) characters or there will be problems, and yes, that was my main one.  Jack bothered me.  It is because of those reasons stated above.  He wanted her trust, but never gave her a reason to do so.  Which is also the reason I felt there was no chemistry between the two characters.

There were also plenty of unanswered questions:  Who killed the Greek and why?  She tells her friend Cassie that when she was a child, her dog took a bullet for her.  Why?  What was her family's real occupation?  Where did she learn her skills?  Where was her mother all this time?  Also, given her occupation, how is it that she maxes out her credit cards?  Surely her career choice - putting herself in danger on a regular basis - would give her a tidy little bank account.  Wouldn't her grandfather know her father was a wastrel?  If so, wouldn't he have provided her a trust fund?  These are questions I would have liked to have had answered at different stages while reading.

Still, the writing was very good and there was enough action to keep the book from becoming boring.  Perhaps in the next in the series, we will find out answers to these questions, and more.  Recommended.

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