Dying for Monet

Book 5 of Claudia Riess’s. art history mystery series opens on a gala evening auction at Laszlo’s, an upstart auction house in New York City. After a much sought-after Impressionist still life painting is without notice withdrawn from the auction block, its broker is found dead at the foot of an imposing statue in Laszlo’s courtyard. Amateur sleuths Erika Shawn and Harrison Wheatley are once again drawn into an investigation involving an art-related homicide, this time with one sharing an unnerving coincidence with violent crimes occurring abroad.

As Harrison searches for clues in the archives at the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford, Erika is on a stakeout in Brooklyn Heights gathering information on the owner of the hijacked still life.  After Harrison experiences a disastrous encounter in London, he returns home, where he and Erika, along with a few of their usual cohorts, find themselves ever more deeply at odds with the movers and shakers on the dark side of fine arts commerce. 

To Kingdom Come

Amateur sleuths, Erika Shawn-Wheatley, art magazine editor, and Harrison Wheatley, art history professor, attend a Zoom meeting of individuals from around the globe whose common goal is to expedite the return of African art looted during the colonial era.  Olivia Chatham, a math instructor at London University, has just begun speaking about her recent find, a journal penned by her great-granduncle, Andrew Barrett, active member of the Royal Army Medical Service during England’s 1897 “punitive expedition” launched against the Kingdom of Benin.  
Olivia is about to disclose what she hopes the sleuthing duo will bring to light when the proceedings are disrupted by an unusual movement in one of the squares on the grid.  Frozen disbelief erupts into a frenzy of calls for help as the group, including the victim, watch in horror the enactment of a murder videotaped in real time.
It will not be the only murder or act of brutality Erika and Harrison encounter in their two-pronged effort to hunt down the source of violence and unearth a cache of African treasures alluded to in Barrett’s journal.
Much of the action takes place in London, scene of the crimes and quest for redemption.

On March 24, 1946, World Chess Champion Alexander Alekhine is found dead in his hotel room in Estoril, Portugal. The cause of his death remains mired in controversy three-quarters of a century later, when a letter of his that could potentially rock the art world, along with a cache of World War II artifacts, is unearthed in a routine home renovation in upstate New York. The letter is addressed to a person of international repute and offers information about art works looted during the German occupation of Paris in exchange for safe passage to the United States. It reveals just enough information to establish the authenticity of Alekhine’s claim, but no more. 

Charles—“Chuck”—Bloom, the stash’s owner by default, enlists his former art history professor and mentor, Harrison Wheatley, to advise him on how to share his find with the public. A presentation is scheduled at the Owen Gray Art Gallery in lower Manhattan. The event is widely publicized, but the only individual besides Chuck to have laid eyes on the chess master’s letter is Harrison.

As he approaches the gallery on the evening of his presentation, Chuck is fatally stabbed by an unknown assailant, the briefcase containing his materials for display, seized. Harrison, blaming himself for putting Chuck in harm’s way, hurls himself into the mission of finding his killer. While the detective on the case focuses on the most logical suspect near at hand, Harrison travels to Paris and Auvers-sur-Oise on a hunt for information relating to the theft alluded to in Alekhine’s letter. He is convinced, as is his wife and sleuthing partner, art editor Erika Shawn, that the cold-case looting and Chuck’s murder are interconnected and will be solved together or not at all.

While Harrison travels abroad, Erika stays at home with their newborn son and follows lines of inquiry from the safety of her home office. Her participation does not remain sedentary for long, though, when, in true form, she can’t resist following a critical lead farther afield.

The stakes become higher along with the murder count. As the couple’s involvement in the case deepens, an unsettling problem in their relationship intensifies. In all matters, a denouement, for better or worse, is destined to occur far from the comforts of home.