The Estuary Pilgrim

Douglas Skeggs, Author St. Martin's Press $0 (332p) ISBN 978-0-312-03827-4
Skeggs is an art historian whose sensual appreciation for paintings and trained observer's eye are put to the service of well-drawn characters and a solidly built plot in his gratifying, assured first novel. In the Normandy harbor town of Honfleur, impressionist expert John Napier authenticates The Estuary Pilgrim , a newly recovered Monet painting thought to have been destroyed, along with countless other Nazi-appropriated masterpieces, in a Resistance ambush in 1944. After a stranger who claims he can prove the painting is a forgery is found floating dead in the harbor, Napier pairs up with a meticulous, unimaginative insurance accountant to investigate both the crime and the painting's provenance. Falling in love with the beautiful ward of a wealthy local art dealer who was also a Resistance hero, Napier uncovers clues that trace an art fraud from the Nazi occupation to the present, revealing fierce old attachments and hatreds hardly mitigated by the passing years. Such original characters as the owner of a hotel that was formerly her brothel, and searching descriptions of the tide-altered lowland setting infuse the novel with a lush, sensory quality that takes it well beyond the predictable conventions of the mystery-thriller genre. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
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