An art expert takes on a case of theft, forgery, and loopy family dynamics.
Oh, to be Serena Jones! Not only does she have long, wavy blonde locks, a job as a member of the FBI’s Art Crime Team in St. Louis, and the admiration of her dishy trainer/partner, Tanner Calhoun, and her hunky apartment super, Nate Butler; she also has eccentric great-aunt Martha, who serves up a mean dish of frog’s legs. On the down side, Serena is a terrible painter haunted by her vegetable still lifes, and her mother is poised to send out wedding invitations if Serena so much as breathes on anyone with a Y chromosome. And her redoubtable grandmother Nana wants Serena to recover a Dalí painting stolen from Nana’s friend Gladys Hoffemeier. It has to be done very discreetly: Gladys is worried that her daughter and her cop son are trying to chivvy her out of a huge, expensive house and will use the stolen painting as further evidence that Gladys can’t manage her estate. Serena soon discovers that she’s let herself in for a muddle of a case with an ever growing list of suspects—Gladys’ improvident son-in-law, a Russian mobster, an ersatz exterminator, a well-known local artist who inconveniently turns up dead. Acting on overheard conversations, warnings from Tanner that Nate and his brother may be shady, and her own wits to escape attempts on her life, Serena copes with even more than being prom queen at a fundraiser and choosing between Tanner’s brown eyes and Nate’s blue. When it’s not just her own life at stake, but Aunt Martha’s and a young protégé’s, Serena does what any self-respecting, government-trained agent does—goes rogue.
Orchard (A Fool and His Monet, 2016, etc.) creates a likable, enviable heroine who knows art inside out but seems a tad short on common sense.