By Claudia Riess
I’m happy to announce that False Light, the second book in my art mystery trilogy published by Level Best Books is now available.
Once again, academic sleuths Erika Shawn, art magazine editor, and Harrison Wheatley, a more seasoned art history professor, set out to tackle a brain teaser. This time the couple—married since their encounter in Stolen Light, first in the series—attempt to crack the long undeciphered code of art forger Eric Hebborn (1934-1996), which promises to reveal the whereabouts of a number of his brilliant Old Master counterfeits. (Hebborn, in real life, was a mischievous sort, who had a fascination with letters and a love-hate relationship with art authenticators. I felt compelled to devise a puzzler on his behalf!) After publication of his memoir, Drawn to Trouble, published in 1991, he encrypts two copies with clues to the treasure hunt. On each of the title pages, he pens a tantalizing explanatory letter. One copy he sends to an art expert; the second, he releases into general circulation. The catch: both books are needed to decipher the code.
When the books are at last united 25 years later, Erik and Harrison are enlisted to help unearth their hidden messages. But when several research aides are brutally murdered, the academic challenge leads to far darker mysteries in the clandestine world of art crime. As the couple navigate this sinister world, both their courage under fire and the stability of their relationship are tested.
In retrospect I’ve found that my novels, which range from art mystery to edgy romance to courtroom drama, have a common factor—they all explore the conflict of staunch independence and romantic love, submissive either by nature or indoctrination. Humor is also a pervasive element. It’s not that I set out to be amusing or exaggerated in depicting action or dialogue, but—and it might seem contradictory—humor seems, in hindsight, to highlight the core reality of the plot and character development, even the most serious aspects of it. Also, if the characters have a sense of humor, they kind of spar on their own while I serve as referee.
At talks and panel discussions, one question that occasionally arises is: “Who are your favorite authors?” This can be a little like asking myself, which do I like more, Hamlet or Curb Your Enthusiasm? With that qualification…:
- Umberto Eco. His brilliance, demonstrated especially in The Island of the Day Before, blows my mind.
- David Mitchell. For his mastery of the language and his wildly creative and provocative ideas, as in The Bone Clocks, where immortal souls jump from body to body. (NB: The funniest passage I ever read is from Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas: “The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish.” You don’t have to read the book. This stands out as a hilarity in itself.)
- For me, the most moving passage on the ravages of war is a paragraph near the start of Sebastian Barry’s wonderful novel, A Long Long Way. I’ve read it many times, both for the content and to marvel at the writing—pure poetry.
- Ian McEwan. For his profound insight into human nature.
- Philip Roth. With seeming effortlessness, he cuts to the heart of the matter, as in Everyman.
- Anita Brookner. For her ability to describe the intricacies of the human spirit and the constraints of society. (How does she manage to write three-page sentences that make perfect sense?)
Claudia Riess has worked in the editorial departments of The New Yorker Magazine and Holt Rinehart and Winston books. She has also edited Art History monographs. For more about Riess and her work, visit http://www.claudiariessbooks.com. Books in the art mystery series are available through Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, IndieBound.org and at independent book stores such as Book Revue in Huntington. For bulk discount purchases, contact http://www.levelbestbooks.wordpress.com.
Media Contact: Janice Jay Young November 2019 631-284-3737 firstname.lastname@example.org