Midwest Book Review
Artists & Thieves
There was a time when mystery novels could be counted on to inform as well as intrigue. From Dorothy Sayers who detailed the art of bell-ringing to Elizabeth Peters who told us of early-day Egyptian archeology, readers reveled in the double pleasure of following a murder investigation and also picking up knowledge.
Modern mysteries are all to often lacking in both intrigue and information. Whether police procedurals or horror tales, they focus entirely on action and suspense. Both are necessary but both can be overdone. Breathtaking action tempts the reader to skim in order to find out what happened, and a skimmed novel is never memorable. So it was a real treat to come upon this mystery which actually informs us about the art world of San Francisco and Monterey, and introduces us to its artists, its collectors, and even its thieves.
Every page of this book is worth reading. Mai Ling is both artist and thief; she steals back stolen art work for Interpol. But in this case she is working on her own, in search of a Ming bowl with mysterious powers stolen from her family many generations ago. Through the years, the male heirs have been charged with recovering the bowl, but now there are no male heirs so the responsibility becomes Mai's. Unfortunately, Mai is not the only one who wants the bowl. A collector wants it, a museum curator wants it, and some art thieves with eager buyers want it. Things go wrong from the beginning. Some of these people want this special bowl badly enough to kill for it, so there are murders--or are there? Did the murdered thief really die? When the collector died of a heart attack because his nitro couldn't be found, was this someone's fault or was it an accident? Are the people who seem guilty really guilty? Intrigue continues to surround the bowl as we move toward a climax in which Mai seems certain to lose her life if she persists, yet Chinese tradition demands persistence. And in the midst of breathless suspense, a peacock riding in the front seat of Mai's car provides a lovely touch of humor.
San Diego Fiction Examiner
July 5, 2011
Linda Schroeder's Artists & Thieves introduces us to Mai Ling, a fun and resourceful protagonist who recovers stolen art for Interpol--but presents herself to the world as an artist. Mai Ling's world is filled with deception. It's a world where every donor is a potential thief and every friend may have a secret agenda.
When her grandfather asks Mai to help him fulfill an ancient family promise, she's torn between honoring that centuries old promise and her responsibility to Interpol. As Mai is drawn further from her role as an Interpol agent and closer to her role as a thief, she's faced with temptations that will ultimately test her moral fabric. Mail steals the vase from an antiquities smuggle. But in this small world where all the players know the others, she quickly becomes a suspect, which also makes her a target.
As the art smugglers close in on Mai Ling, she becomes attached to the vase and begins to learn it secrets. And when the smugglers steal back the vase and nearly kill her grandfather, she vows to do anything to fulfill her promise. In the final moments, Mai is faced with one of the most basic questions of all--will she kill to get what she wants or not?
Readers interested in the art world will enjoy Schroeder's characters, who seem to have just enough larceny in them to be unable to refuse an opportunity to make a big score. And, for those who are tired of novels dominated by weak pots that only succeed due to an overabundance of senseless violence and sex. Artists and Thieves is a good alternative. The violence isn't excessive, but well placed. The plot slows a bit as the vase changes hands a few times, but overall, this well-written mystery will have readers cheering for Mai Ling to fulfill her promise, but not lose sight of who she is."