After five urbane adventures starring Boston art collector Clayton Reed and his dogsbody Fred Taylor (Lazarus, Arise, 2001), Kilmer shows how they first met.
Squiring home Franklin Tilley, the intoxicated young man he’s met at a Museum of Fine Arts fundraiser, Reed finds that he needs an extra Samaritan. Enter Fred, who’s just left the bed of a woman whose name he can’t remember. Together they extricate Tilley from a taxi and get him into his Beacon Hill home—a place lined with paintings he wants Reed to cast his expert eye over. Although Tilley, his drunkenness no more trustworthy than his ownership, insists the best item still awaits delivery, Reed leaves after paying $6,000 for a decorated chest he carts off. The decorations he shows Fred are extraordinary, for inside the lid is a presumed Leonardo da Vinci showing a Madonna and Child posed with a monkey. Now that he has custody of the painting, Reed is ravenous for a provenance. Meanwhile, Tilley wants his prize back and is willing to pay $10,000 for it. And the guilelessly named Suzette Shaughnessy intimates as she snuggles up to Fred that she’s eager to purchase the chest for Toledo plumbing heir Tony Agnelli, assuming there is such a person.
A mind-boggling but essentially lightweight series of deceptions and alliances of convenience aimed at readers who still aren’t sick of Leonardo despite Dan Brown’s best efforts.