The author saves a few surprises for the end in this enjoyable art mystery.

Death on Canvas

From the The Jessie O'Bourne Art Mysteries series , Vol. 1

A murder in the small Montana town of Sage Bluff reignites an investigation into the decades-old disappearance of two valuable Thomas Moran paintings.

Artist and debut author Cherry puts down her paintbrushes long enough to deliver a whodunit. Modern-day drug trafficking, stolen artworks, a 1918 murder witnessed by then-11-year-old John Running Bear at rural Montana’s Benedict’s Mission School for Native Americans, and a large cast of players are woven together, providing unifying threads back and forth between 1918 and the present. Jessie O’Bourne, a successful, 30-something artist, returns to her hometown (with her constant and cantankerous companion, Jack, a large, orange tomcat) to judge an art contest. When she pulls her old pickup truck to the side of the road to sketch some pastoral scenes, she discovers a limp and badly beaten young woman, Amber Reynolds, dumped and hidden among bales of hay next to her father’s barn. And so begins a series of murders that baffles the Sage Bluff police and questions the integrity of almost every character in this tale. Add in two romantic interests for Jessie (local Sgt. Russell Bonham, with whom she has a long, complicated back story, and FBI agent Grant Kennedy from the bureau’s art theft division), along with a few nicely placed misdirections, and the intricate story moves along at a fast clip. Cherry brings her artistic expertise and perceptions to the mystery genre—Jessie sees the world in vibrant splashes of color waiting to be recreated on canvas—and offers a bit of art history along the way. While the stolen paintings at the center of this well-plotted narrative are fictional, Moran was a real landscape artist with a distinguished career. His celebrated Rocky Mountain works helped lead to the creation of Yellowstone National Park. Cherry’s capable writing, however, deserves better copy editing. A typical misstep reads: “He parents are sure she it was probably her iPad.” And Chapter 5 is subtitled: “O’Bourne’s ranch, present day,” when it is in fact set in the sheriff’s office. A second Jessie O’Bourne novel is on the way.

The author saves a few surprises for the end in this enjoyable art mystery.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2016

ISBN: 978-1-5238-2911-8

Page Count: 418

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: July 12, 2016

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Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...

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THE A LIST

A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Fans who still mourn the passing of Agatha Christie, the model who’s evoked here in dozens of telltale details, will welcome...

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MAGPIE MURDERS

A preternaturally brainy novel within a novel that’s both a pastiche and a deconstruction of golden-age whodunits.

Magpie Murders, bestselling author Alan Conway’s ninth novel about Greek/German detective Atticus Pünd, kicks off with the funeral of Mary Elizabeth Blakiston, devoted housekeeper to Sir Magnus Pye, who’s been found at the bottom of a steep staircase she’d been vacuuming in Pye Hall, whose every external door was locked from the inside. Her demise has all the signs of an accident until Sir Magnus himself follows her in death, beheaded with a sword customarily displayed with a full suit of armor in Pye Hall. Conway's editor, Susan Ryeland, does her methodical best to figure out which of many guilty secrets Conway has provided the suspects in Saxby-on-Avon—Rev. Robin Osborne and his wife, Henrietta; Mary’s son, Robert, and his fiancee, Joy Sanderling; Joy’s boss, surgeon Emilia Redwing, and her elderly father; antiques dealers Johnny and Gemma Whitehead; Magnus’ twin sister, Clarissa; and Lady Frances Pye and her inevitable lover, investor Jack Dartford—is most likely to conceal a killer, but she’s still undecided when she comes to the end of the manuscript and realizes the last chapter is missing. Since Conway in inconveniently unavailable, Susan, in the second half of the book, attempts to solve the case herself, questioning Conway’s own associates—his sister, Claire; his ex-wife, Melissa; his ex-lover, James Taylor; his neighbor, hedge fund manager John White—and slowly comes to the realization that Conway has cast virtually all of them as fictional avatars in Magpie Murders and that the novel, and indeed Conway’s entire fictional oeuvre, is filled with a mind-boggling variety of games whose solutions cast new light on murders fictional and nonfictional.

Fans who still mourn the passing of Agatha Christie, the model who’s evoked here in dozens of telltale details, will welcome this wildly inventive homage/update/commentary as the most fiendishly clever puzzle—make that two puzzles—of the year.

Pub Date: June 6, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-264522-7

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: March 7, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2017

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