MURDER AT THE GARDNER
The author of several stories featuring retired ex-cop (now Harvard lecturer) Homer Kelly (Natural Enemy, etc.) reveals unexpected strengths and charm in this new work. Strange and faintly ominous things are happening at Boston's Isabella Gardner Museum, an Italianate palace chock-full of masterpieces from centuries past. Seemingly harmless pranks at first, hardly serious enough to worry the museum's seven trustees, they soon escalate into the murder of art patron Madeline Hepplewhite, who had apparently caught the perpetrator in an act of mischief. Newly appointed director Titus Moon, security chief Charlie Tibby, and Homer (called in to help) are at wit's end. And the trustees, especially stuffy chairman John Bodkin, are troubled by the terms of Mrs. Gardner's will: the museum is to stay exactly as she left it (any change could permit the trustees to dismantle the structure and sell its treasures), and proceeds are to go to Harvard. Then creeping self-interest begins to sway board members Bodkin, Preston, Carver, and enigmatic Edward Fallfold, while Catherine Rule, a trustee and world authority on tapestries, is dismayed by director Titus' infatuation with society lightweight Aurora O'Doyle. In the meantime, Catherine's wish for some time alone with the great tapestry she's just finished restoring almost gets her killed. But not quite--and therein lies the puzzle's solution and a rollicking finale. Sharp, stylish, fresh, and funny; a sendup of contemporary art hype and pious big-business greed, with a near-Dickensian showdown between the forces of good and evil. This is one not to miss.