Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Back-to-Back Mysteries

Years ago, my friend Betsy introduced me to the pleasure of reading mysteries. When I moved here some years back, she visited for a week each summer, paperbacks in hand. When she left, she also left the books for me. 

This past week, I finished two mysteries, back-to-back. One of them, Girls' Night Out was written by one of Betsy's favorites -- Anne Carroll George. Betsy chuckled alound when she read George's books, and now I see why. The Birmingham writer created two sisters whose banter and behavior are delightful. The mystery itself -- one sister buys a run-down country bar and the previous owner is murdered the next day -- isn't nearly as much fun as the characters and the references to Birmingham places and sites with which I, a native, am familiar.

Far more satisfying, both as a mystery and as a work of literature, is The Art Forger by B. A. Shapiro. A painter, talented but ignored by galleries, agrees to copy a work by Degas, provided to her by a dealer. She immediately recognizes the "original" Degas as a fake, and thus begins a fascinating tale revolving around a famous heist at the Isabella Stewart Gardner museum. My favorite parts of the book, however, dealt with the artist's painting technique -- ranging from stripping an old painting down to the sizing to the multipe layers of paint and glazing to the large oven in which she bakes her copy. I've taken many art history courses, and I've read widely about art, but for the first time, the process of making a painting came to life for me.

When I finished the book, I wanted nothing more than to recommend it to Betsy. But I can't, as she -- like Anne George -- died some years ago. Instead, I'll recommend it to the friends who read my blog. 

Maybe I can pass along an inherited taste for mystery.

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