A woman with a murderous past reinvents herself as an art dealer in Venice only to have everything she thought she left behind come roaring back.
Judith Rashleigh shed her identity, along with a stack of corpses, at the end of Maestra, (2016), vowing to start clean as Elisabeth Teerlinc, an innocuous gallerist new to Venice with a bland Swiss past. Except Rashleigh’s appetites can’t be quenched by low-level art. Then there are her sexual desires: the sex here—and there's a lot—is more tedious than erotic, more cringeworthy than titillating. Rashleigh, as Elisabeth, is approached by Russian billionaire Pavel Yermolov to value his extensive art collection, which includes pieces only rumored to exist. She politely declines, telling Yermolov she’s not qualified for the task. It’s never a good idea to say no to a powerful Russian, and soon she’s being blackmailed into producing a drawing she’s positive doesn’t actually exist. The extended metaphor—the mysterious Caravaggio is a stand-in for Elisabeth herself, who also doesn’t truly exist—is weak at best. Soon she’s off on a multicity European tour, from Venice to Paris to Belgrade, making sure to have narrative-halting sex everywhere she goes for no other reason than to prove she can. (She can. It grows tiring fast.) Since this is the second installment in a planned trilogy, the ending is the expected cliffhanger, but the reader feels so little for the character that the promise of a conclusion in the third book is of little consolation.
This is a series of vignettes, not a novel, poorly strung together by a litany of fine clothing and even finer art and punctuated by uncomfortably sticky sexual encounters.