Phoebe and the Ghost of Chagall

Jill Koenigsdorf. MacAdam/Cage, $24 (380p) ISBN 978-1-59692-383-6
In this debut novel by Koenigsdorf, the ghost of Marc Chagall appears in the soon-to-be foreclosed Sonoma home of Phoebe Rosen, a middle-aged artist earning a meager living painting labels for a winery. Chagall's "unfinished business" is to solve Phoebe's financial problems by helping her recover a painting of his that her grandfather found in Paris during WWIII but was then stolen in the chaos of the war. While the premise has the potential to unfold as a unique, paranormal mystery, Koenigsdorf's prose is clichéd and her plot has too many far-fetched coincidences. Minor characters, like a gaggle of well-off housewives, seem to exist solely so Phoebe can, for the reader's benefit, explain her predicament in spurts of expository dialogue listing off "divorce, my daughter leaving the nest, my hours being cut back at the winery…." The circumstances bringing Phoebe back in contact with her grandfather's Chagall are even more unbelievable than the presence of the painter's ghost, the unexpected fruit of an invitation to join a bicycle tour of Provence. However, the story's twists and turns—a pair of sister witches and an international art smuggling ring make appearances—may provide enough intrigue to keep a reader's interests. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/08/2012
Release date: 10/01/2012
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