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The Lover's Portrait by Jennifer Alderson

The Lover's Portrait: An Art Mystery - Jennifer S. Alderson

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone novel.

I love a good art mystery, where the main character has to dig into the history of an art piece and try to figure out motivations of potential owners. Zelda Richardson has the passion for the job. She was bored sick of her office computer job in Big City, USA and ran off to the Netherlands to study art, working on her master’s degree. I really wanted to like Zelda and eventually I came to care about her in the way I would care about a young niece. She has the appreciation for Dutch art and the dedication to research but she’s not the sharpest pencil in the pack. The clues to the mystery were well laid out and Zelda sometimes took forever to put them together.

Because of that, this cozy murder mystery read more like a kid’s mystery novel. So maybe it’s not so much Zelda but rather how the mystery itself unfolded. I really felt that Zelda acted younger than a woman in her late 20s or early 30s and her slowness in piecing together the clues really added to this. Once I cheated and adjusted Zelda’s age to 15, I liked her more and I enjoyed the tale more.

Most of the story is set in Amsterdam and there were a few scenes sprinkled throughout the story that do well in reminding us of the setting. However, for most of the book, the tale could be set almost anywhere. A few Dutch touches here and there would have added to the atmosphere.

There are two women who claim rightful ownership of a newly recovered portrait called Irises. Rita Brower hails from Missouri (I think) and is friendly. She lived in Amsterdam as a kid and has many fond memories of the place. Karen O’Neil comes in hitting heavy with a pushy attorney, threatening to go to the press with her sob story. I liked that it wasn’t immediately clear which woman had the best case of ownership though Zelda had a clear liking for Rita while her co-worker Huub Konjin clearly favored Karen with all her legal documentation. Her boss Bernice remained professional throughout the entire mess, requiring her employees to look into both cases diligently.

The research pulls in Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during WWII and their persecution of homosexuals. I felt Zelda had a very simple take on this: if character X was a homosexual, there’s no way character X could have children. That’s just silly. Plenty of homosexuals and bisexuals have had kids. This argument of Zelda’s was a very weak one but a lot of emphasis was placed on it, making it a weak point in the plot.

Later on, Zelda talks her friend Friedrich into helping her spy on one of the claimants. However, she’s then dumb enough to play this illegal recording for her boss and Huub. Obviously, that doesn’t go well and I was sure Zelda would face charges. Zelda was completely surprised at how things went and I felt this added to the overall feeling that Zelda was more a 15 year old than a 25 year old.

As the story winds up for the big finale, which was easy to predict well before we got there, I was rooting for Zelda. She may be a bit dense but I didn’t want her dead and I did want her to find the big stash of lost art. Since things had been so cozy and rather PG, I wasn’t worried for Zelda’s safety even when she was held at gun point. I did wonder about that one scene where the Bad Guy has to hold her at gun point and pick a lock at the same time….. hmmm…. it usually takes 2 hands to pick a lock. Zelda didn’t take advantage of that moment but she comes up swinging later once she’s worked out that she’s dead if she doesn’t do something.

Over all, it was a fun cozy listen with good pacing. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Carol Purdom has a very pleasant voice to listen to. She makes a decent Zelda and a really great Rita (Missouri accent). She does well as the slightly outraged Karen too. I was expecting the Dutch characters to have Dutch accents, but they didn’t. They usually sounded a bit formal or stilted but not with Dutch accents. There’s a few lines of German here and there and Perdom’s German pronunciation needs some polishing. She was really good with the emotions, especially Zelda’s. 3.5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jennifer S. Alderson. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.