Determined PI unravels murder at an art class

ArtofMurder_revised(2)The Art of Murder, by Elaine Viets. Obsidian/NAL. 304 pages. Hardcover $25.00.

No one does Fort Lauderdale like Elaine Viets, alert to the vibes of neighborhoods and how social networks develop in places where most people are not natives and many are newcomers. How people define themselves by their dress, by their home decor, and by how they fit into the city.

The Art of Murder, the 15th title in her “Dead-End Jobs” mystery series, opens at the delightful Bonnet House Museum. Private investigator Helen Hawthorne is visiting Bonnet House with her seventy-six year old landlady and friend Margaret. Readers learn what the visitors learn about the history of Bonnet House while taking in its architecture, colors, Interior design, and stories about founders Frederic Clay Bartlett and his wife Evelyn.

Helen and Margaret come across an art class being held there. They meet the teacher and several students, including Annabel – a painter whose reputation is rapidly rising in the art community. After the class, Annabel falls ill in the parking lot, and before long she is dead. Her ex-husband, who has joined the class to make Annabel’s life miserable, doesn’t even offer help the frail, immobile woman. When one of the others in the group hires Helen to investigate, the client insists that Helen prove the ex-husband guilty.

Elaine Viets

Elaine Viets

He makes a good suspect, but there are other possibilities. There is also some chance she committed suicide. Nicotine poisoning is the cause of death. Nicotine “vaping” fluid ended up in Annabel’s tea.

So, plot line number one: who, if anyone, is guilty of murdering Annabel? It it’s murder, what was the motive and where is the evidence? Somewhere along the line, perhaps the author asked herself: “do I have a 300 page novel here?” Or, “do I need another center of interest?”

In any case, Ms. Viets came up with plot line number two, this one featuring Helen’s husband Phil as the principal investigator who receives some very special help from Helen playing the role of a high class call girl. Valuable gold coins are being stolen from collectors living on the top floors of upscale condos. Building security clearly needs an upgrade, and Phil is hired to find out what’s going on and put a stop to the thefts. Property values, you know!

As we might expect, Phil’s investigation brings readers into the world of building security, condominium life, and collectable coins. His plan is to set a trap for the Gold Ghost (or ghosts), and Ms. Viets builds the suspense around Phil’s plan as it is set into action. . . .

To read the entire review, as it appears in the August 11, 2016 issues of the Naples and Palm Beach Gardens/Jupiter editions of Florida Weekly, click here: Florida Weekly – The Art of Murder

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