Friday, August 22, 2008

Feint of Art, by Hailey Lind

This summer I’ve indulged myself by trying out several new mystery writers and series. Some stories I have enjoyed, while others were too much of a stretch to be believable, or just badly written. But the popularity of the amateur detective is greatly evident when you stroll through the mystery section of the bookstore, and see series after series involving shopkeepers and writers and store owners and party planners, all of whom suddenly blossom into private investigators, with the typical motivation of helping out a friend combined with personal nosiness. (I reflected briefly on this phenomenon when I reviewed three such novels on Leaf and Frame.) Creating a believable scenerio wherein a (typically) self-employed young professional discovers private-eye talents and uses them convincingly, is difficult, I believe. When in real life can a florist or coffeeshop owner succeed where a police detective can’t? In a market burgeoning with “same formula/new setting” mystery series, creating a fun, unique character who finds a legitimate reason to sleuth around is the author’s first and most challenging imperative. Some of those I have read over the summer succeeded in that goal, while others did not.

In Feint of Art, Hailey Lind did a decent job of giving her detective a convincing cause and motivation for tracking down some missing persons together with missing works of art. As a reformed art forger turned legitimate businesswoman, Annie Kincaid’s background is original and gives her a slight edge in a case involving the “art underworld,” so to speak. Other than that, Annie is a formula character with the prerequisite traits of inquisitiveness, tenacity, money troubles, fashion obstacles, and a suffering love life. (Seriously, all the heroines that I have encountered in this type of mystery novel have these same characteristics.) But Annie’s particular incarnation is enjoyable enough, and the plot’s rising action involving deception, murder, art renovation and flirtation, was interesting and swift enough to keep me turning the pages.

Feint of Art is one of the better examples of the amateur detective subgenre, and it was nice indulging in a bit of candy reading this month. It nowhere reaches the cleverness of Agatha Christie nor the witty depth of Dorothy Sayers; but readers who like modern mystery writers will enjoy this light entertainment.


At 1:34 PM, Blogger Rose said...

I just finished the next two in the series (my library didn't have this one, for some reason), and I have to agree with your analysis. The characters and repartee were somewhat formulaic, but the plot had some neat (if far-fetched) twists and turns. I particularly enjoyed all the detail about art - paintings, artists, etc. (I assume the details were accurate, unlike in the Da Vinci Code.)

The writing wasn't exceptional, and it's certainly not Classic material, but it provided a fun read. Thanks for the recommendation!

At 12:17 PM, Blogger Lindsay said...

I love finding a good series, however I haven't found very many that dont tend to be a little formulaic in some aspect or another. :-)

At 12:20 AM, Blogger Calon Lan said...

It was definitely formulaic but very fun. A great read for a long, quiet afternoon.

At 5:17 AM, Blogger Queen of Carrots said...

I got too annoyed by the writing style on the first page and gave it up. :-(


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