Artist and author Cherry (Death on Canvas, 2016) returns with a unique mix of murder, art, and a hefty supply of suspects in this second Jessie O’Bourne mystery.
Dead bodies seem to turn up whenever Jessie returns to Montana. She and her enormous, charmingly privileged cat Jack (aka “Butter Tub”) have been spending a lot of time on the road, attending art showings and gallery meet-and-greets. She was looking forward to some downtime when a friend asked her to fill in as a guest artist at the annual art expo in Crooked Creek, Montana, where locals have been gossiping about a number of strange deaths. They started six months ago, when teenage Adele Nielson was mysteriously shot and killed while driving her father’s tractor on their farm. But Jessie doesn’t know about any of this as she organizes her display and sets up materials for her oil painting classes. The morning after her arrival, though, someone leaves small toy tractors outside her hotel room door. Then she discovers a dead body stuffed into a storage compartment of the Hawk, her trusty motor home. As a result, Jessie is once again pulled into a dangerous murder investigation, and the local sheriff considers her a suspect. Cherry packs her novel with so many characters that readers may find it difficult to keep them all straight in the beginning. More than a handful are hiding one secret or another, which provides the tale with a plethora of red herrings. Although the mystery itself is engaging, much of the fun comes from Cherry’s detailed portraits of the eclectic, quirky creative types that inhabit the art world. For instance, the author shows how Jessie sees everything as a painting in progress: “Glen’s [bald] head became a tiny, empty, round canvas. In her mind, she painted a small robin’s nest on that bare space, the wiry hairs surrounding the spot becoming woven twigs encircling three blue eggs.”
Another page-turner featuring a twisty plot, a strong female lead, and some helpful painting tips for aspiring artists.