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Portraits of Pretence (The Sam Plank Mysteries) Paperback – September 17, 2016
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Very considerable historical research underpins this story, as with the earlier Sam Plank mysteries. I particularly like the way, for example, the complex and ground-breaking approach taken to the return of art plundered during war at the Congress of Vienna by, on the one hand, Castelreagh and the Duke of Wellington (who advocated the revolutionary, at the time, approach of returned plundered art) is contrasted with that adopted by the then Prince Regent and Lord Liverpool (who wanted the treasures of the bulging Louvre to be taken to enrich England's national collections. And all superbly condensed to a page and a half or so of well-managed dialogue.
And, without revealing too much, the often murky workings of the art market, as convoluted back then as they are now, provide a rewarding backdrop. Fraud, forgery, deception and deceit all throng the art market, waiting to prey on the unsuspecting, the unwary and the foolish. Sam's unravelling of all this, against a backdrop made real and substantial by the myriad period details and descriptions, in a world inhabited by believable and well-worked characters - some old friends, others newly met - is both richly satisfying and an object lesson in the importance, then as now, of a robust provenance when any artwork appears on the market.
" I enjoyed this very much – the writing is good and the characters well defined. The plot moves along nicely and plausibly. I was also impressed that the crime was not solved in a matter of days, as is so often the case, but over the course of a few months, which is a much more realistic timeline and I applaud the author for that."