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Lillian Stewart Carl: Secret Portrait


Crescent Blues Book Views Hardcover - Five Star (ISBN-1594143072)

Book: lillian stewart carl, secret portrait
Jean Fairburn, expatriate American, doctor of history, and now co-owner and contributor of a magazine called Great Scot, loves her new life in Scotland. Actually, Jean just loves anything Scottish, period. Then one fine spring day, retired professor George Lovelace enters her office. He shows Jean a gold coin he claims he found while out bird watching.

The coin intrigues Jean. It just might belong to Bonny Prince Charlie's legendary and long missing hoard of French gold. George wants Jean's help in vetting the coin as part of a "treasure trove" -- a precious item deliberately concealed -- which would allow him to keep the coin. Otherwise, the laws regarding lost and abandoned property would require him to turn it over to the Crown.

Something about George's nervousness and the coin itself bother Jean. She takes the coin to her friends, Michael and Rebecca Campbell (much loved protagonists of Ashes to Ashes and Dust to Dust) for testing. At the museum, Michael reveals that George sought to establish provenance for another antique only a year before. This makes George's new request seem even more suspicious.

At her partner's request, Jean arranges an interview with American dot.com-millionaire Rick MacLyon -- current owner of Glendessary House and total Bonny Prince Charlie freak. Since Glendessary House lies close to George's home, Miranda figures Jean can kill two birds with one stone. While researching her two subjects Jean finds that they share a history and a contentious one at that.

Jean fails to find George at home, so she heads to Glendessary House. While waiting to meet the new lord of the manor, Jean sees a ghost and reluctantly follows it -- to George's corpse, hanging from a rope in the game larder.

Before Jean can say "Flora MacDonald," she's up to her ears in deception, ghosts and history-crazed millionaires -- and butting heads with the very interesting Chief Inspector Alasdair Cameron. Interesting or not, Cameron promptly, and much to Jean's irritation, puts her on his top ten suspects list.

Cameron and Jean face a real challenge. The residents and ghosts of Glendessary House conceal many secrets, some of which might be powerful enough to commit murder for. Along the way, Jean and Alasdiar also learn that the past -- both recent and centuries past -- can come back to life with a vengeance.

As always, Lillian Stewart Carl crafts an exceptionally well-written and tightly plotted tale. And as always, her characters draw you into her stories until you find yourself standing in Jean's shoes on the staircase of Glendessary House while ghostly footsteps clump closer and closer. I could go on and on, but think I've used all my best adjectives already for Lillian's novels. Still I guess it won't hurt to repeat some of them again. Engaging, absorbing, rousingly good and finally -- highly recommended. I very much look forward to more adventures with Jean and Alasdair. In fact, the only thing better than another Jean and Alasdair mystery would be if Lillian could find a way for Michael and Rebecca to join in. (Hint, hint.)

Teri Smith

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