A legendary illuminated manuscript has vanished—or has it?
The ancient book has been handed down in the Charters clan from woman to woman, all of them named Serena. But the present Serena has inherited only four unbound pages from her grandmother, who died in a blaze set by an unknown arsonist. The rest, some 600 priceless pieces of handpainted vellum, has yet to be found. There isn’t much to go on besides a Swiss bank account number and those few surviving pages, which may or may not be forgeries. Serena takes them over to the sinister mansion of Norman Warrick, a grasping, ultrarich art dealer and owner of the House of Warrick, serving grasping, ultrarich art collectors worldwide. Norman is aided in his nefarious endeavors by his equally unpleasant grown children, playboy Garrison Warrick and whiny divorcée Cleary Warrick Montclair, neither of whom seem surprised when the old man contemptuously dismisses the unbound pages as well as Serena. She then seeks out Erik North, a restorer of medieval manuscripts who also replicates them now and then. Can she trust him? Well, Erik is astoundingly handsome, incredibly sexy, well versed in medieval languages—and smitten with Serena. They join forces to track down her grandmother’s killer, traveling from the Southwest to the Northeast to find “Manhattan wrapped around the House of Warrick like a concrete anaconda.” Back to the Mojave they go, pursued by thugs who apparently can’t be seen sneaking up through miles of empty, flat desert. Various red herrings are strewn about with abandon, wary looks and grim smiles abound. It all works out eventually.
Romancer Lowell (Midnight in Ruby Bayou, 2000, etc.) has done her rare-book research, and it’s all here—along with a Nancy Drew-ish plot and prose that’s about as subtle as a calliope.