on April 5th, 2016
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Also in this series: The Corpse with the Golden Nose, The Corpse with the Emerald Thumb, The Corpse with the Crystal Skull
The seventh book in the Cait Morgan series finds the eccentric Welsh criminologist–sleuth accompanying her husband Bud to Amsterdam to try to unravel a puzzling situation.
To Bud’s surprise, he discovers he has a long-lost uncle, Jonas, who’s met an untimely death. Bud's mother assures him Jonas was a bad child, but, from beyond the grave, Uncle Jonas begs his nephew to visit the city he adopted as his home to delve into the life he built for himself there, founded on his passion for art.
With an old iron key as their only clue, Cait and Bud travel to Amsterdam to solve the cryptic message left by Jonas—and to honor the final wishes of a long-lost relative.
I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.
I’ve been fascinated with the world of Old Masters, art theft and art forgery since reading Aaron Elkins’ “Christopher Norgren” mysteries about 20 years ago, so I was delighted to discover that Cathy Ace’s newest Cait Morgan novel deals with an amateur artist with an unusual talent for mimicry, and the “Group” of friends and fellow artists he gathers around him.
Bud is taken aback when he learns his uncle has died — mostly because he never knew he had an uncle. But faced with a distraught mother and a letter from the dead man, asking Bud to dispose of Jonas’s effects, to meet his friends, and to discover who he was. . . well, what can Bud do but say yes? And so he and Cait take off for Amsterdam to dig into Jonas’s past — and present.
Cathy Ace’s Cait Morgan books always remind me of Agatha Christie — not so much in the setting or time period, but in how well-crafted they are, and in how the mystery is presented. Like Christie, she plays fair with almost all the evidence, but hides some of the important clues among the details. Like Christie’s Poirot, Cait is brilliant, observant, and creative, with a similar penchant for presenting the case to the entire cast toward the end of the book. Unlike Poirot, though, Cait has an eidetic (photographic) memory, and instead of just using her “little grey cells” in a logical fashion, she also employs a waking-dream technique to help her gain insight into what she has seen and heard. She’s not a detective in the professional sense, though Bud is a former cop. No, Cait is a both a professor of psychology, and a victim profiler: she works with police to build a character portrait of the victim, to help them figure out just why the victim became a victim. Except that she usually ends up solving the crime for them.
This time, though, the investigation is personal rather than professional, especially for Bud. And it doesn’t involve a mystery in the police sense of the term. . . at least not initially. But the responses of the oddly-assorted group of friends and fellow art-lovers seem just slightly off, and it’s not long before Cait, Bud, and the reader are convinced there’s more going on than is visible on the surface.
I read most of the book in a single sitting. Ms. Ace’s steady pacing and skillful construction kept me as interested in putting together the pieces as Cait is herself, and the Amsterdam setting and art-world milieu made it a thoroughly satisfying read. If I have any complaint (and it’s a minor one), it’s that there’s a little too much emphasis on food and drink — but then, Cait is a foodie. It’s a little tough for those of us trying to eat healthy, though!
The Corpse with the Garnet Face is a puzzle mystery more than a crime story — a cozy in the Golden Age style. I highly recommend it, and the Cait Morgan series generally, to lovers of deftly-plotted and well-executed mysteries.
There’s a tour-wide giveaway — win one of two copies of The Corpse with the Garnet Face!
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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:
- Cruisin' Thru the Cozies 2016