Title: Smoke by D. B. Borton
Genre: Currently #19277 on Amazon Best Sellers Rank in Kindle eBooks, Literature & Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Women Sleuths
Publisher: Boomerang Books
Publication Date: November 20, 2017
Source: Direct request by author
Title and Cover: Smoke – Great cover showing frame painting
Backstory during the Iranian revolution at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art sets the plot of stolen masterpieces, some of which later turn out to be fakes.
Decades later, Marge Smith, as an active agent of Quixote, Ltd. is sent to The Elms to recover from a broken leg received in a motorcycle accident when she is swept up in a geriatric production of Macbeth. The production introduces her to three friends starring as witches, each on short term in the nursing facility, when suddenly one of the witches dies unexpectedly.
Marge (M.J.) is no ordinary early septuagenarian. She has long, experienced years working with top-flight specialty firm Levesque Security and the secret Quixote, Ltd. When she is called in on a theft recovery, Marge is astonished to see two of the three witches when she is handed a list of stolen paintings. These are the same paintings she stole back during the Iranian revolution to keep the masterpieces safe in the conflict. So how in the world did poor witch Dottie, recently deceased Dottie of the paint-by-number Scotties, and her cronies get involved? Well, the fun actually began in the old folks home and hits dangerously close to the mark and then the plot begins to thicken.
First, I found it refreshing to read of a protagonist past middle age, knowledgeable, experienced, and a capable world traveler. Using the expertise she has gained in years of subterfuge, she is quite, quietly capable of following the clues to find the paintings, and along with the two ladies, Ada, and Theo, are gradually found to share expertise of their own. Despite a few restrictions that come with age, both will eventually join in the recovery.
During the detection period, the conundrum arises as to whether or not the paintings are real or fake. The big question seems to center on the number actually stolen by their hand or that of others, one a well-known jewel thief. How did he get involved and does he now have the originals? Of fifteen on the list, four are unaccounted for. Did Dottie have the real ones or the fake ones? They’ve searched her home and nothing remains but the clean space on the walls where the paintings were kept. Her relatives are anxious to inherit.
In a bid to follow the lead, M.J. makes a trip to Tuscany to the retired home of “the Birdman,” world-renown jewel thief to possibly learn more about the location of the valuable paintings. Feisty, determined, and obstinate, she can still finesse “the Birdman,” George Finch. Finch, unfortunately, is found to be suffering from Alzheimer’s.
I love the sense of humor evident in Ms. Borton’s writing. She pokes a lot of self-deprecating fun at her protagonist, M.J., while at the same time allows that she is still capable of the mental work she performed when younger, although with a broken leg and unwieldly crutches is not quite as physically capable.
Whether dealing with Mr. Finch using her limited Italian, Dottie’s friends, or her own colleagues, the author nails the inflections, confusion, or intelligence of the conferences. The writing is wonderfully descriptive and often produces audible chuckles whether from recognizable situations or conversations and weaves the story in an out of the many twists. I especially appreciated the discussions of the masters, the paintings, the techniques, and the history, giving new expression to “art appreciation.”
These are strong characters, well fleshed, with a few eliciting sympathy and a knowing wag of the head. Softening the edges of strong characters were the inclusion of dogs of different description adding an additional fun dimension to the narrative. Certainly one of the more unique books I’ve read in awhile, appreciated this romp down what can be an impressive 70-something figure in protagonist position. My only reservation was with the elimination of the cast and crutches, boot and cane in what would seem to be a very early stage of healing–most especially for a person of that age–notwithstanding the physical therapy and Chinese smoothie formula (sludge ;). (Could have used some of those healing herbs myself!)
I was given this download by the author in exchange for a review and it is my own opinion. No monetary consideration was involved. I recommend to anyone who enjoys suspense novels nearing retirement age–poke some fun at yourself. Also recommended to anyone under retirement age–you’ll get there–may as well look at it with a sense of humor. Fun and informative book. Enjoy.
Rosepoint Publishing: Four of Five Stars
The Author: (From Amazon Author page) D. B. Borton lives in a small Midwestern college town, where she teaches writing, film, and literature at Ohio Wesleyan University. She has published eleven mystery novels in two series, the Cat Caliban series (Berkley, Hilliard and Harris) and the Gilda Liberty series (Fawcett). As an academic writer, she has published work on film, women’s literature, and the supernatural; she is co-author of Haunting the House of Fiction: Feminist Perspectives on Ghost Stories by American Women and Ghost Stories by British and American Women. She has also written for Ms. magazine.
A native Texan, Borton became an ardent admirer of Nancy Drew at a young age. At the age of fourteen, she acquired her own blue roadster, trained on the freeways of Houston and the broad stretches of oil-endowed Texas highway, and began her travels. She also began a lifetime of political activism, working only for political candidates who lost. She left Texas at about the time everyone else arrived. Connect with Ms. Borton on her website. ©2017 Virginia Williams