cover image Circles of Confusion

Circles of Confusion

April Henry. HarperCollins Publishers, $23 (274pp) ISBN 978-0-06-019204-4

An amateur sleuth with an unusual day job debuts in this lively romantic mystery, Henry's first novel. Claire Montrose works for the Oregon Motor Vehicles Division in Portland, checking applications for vanity license plates. Her mundane job is interrupted by a call from her mother, who reports that Claire's great-aunt has died, bequeathing to Claire the contents of her mobile home. Aided by her boyfriend, an obsessively careful insurance adjuster, Claire sorts through Aunt Cady's belongings. Among the piles of old knickknacks, she finds a beautiful small painting of a woman sitting at a table. Aunt Cady had been in Germany during WWII and Claire suspects the artwork might be one of many masterpieces that disappeared in Europe around that time. To have it appraised, she flies to New York, where an expert tells her that the painting is a forgery. At the Metropolitan Museum of Art, however, a handsome artist says that the canvas may be an authentic Vermeer. Attempts to steal the painting convince Claire that the artist may be right--but can she trust him? Or should she trust the expert who thought the painting a forgery? Danger follows Claire back to Portland, but she proves clever enough to outwit even the wiliest villain in her offbeat, vital first outing as a sleuth. Agent, Wendy Schmalz at Harold Ober. (Feb.)