cover image The Masterpiece

The Masterpiece

Fiona Davis. Dutton, $26 (368p) ISBN 978-1-5247-4295-9

Davis’s splendid third novel (following The Dollhouse and The Address) takes readers back in time to the New York of the 1970s and the late ’20s, centering on Grand Central Station. In 1928 New York City, illustrator and artist Clara Darden teaches at the Grand Central School of Art. Confident and brash, Clara scrapes by until she secures employment drawing illustrations for Vogue. Clara’s romantic involvement with budding poet Oliver Smith changes her life as they enjoy the parties of New York’s elite and she gains notoriety for her art. Her life takes a turn, however, as her friendship with mercurial artist Levon Zakarian threatens her relationship with Oliver, and the stock market crash of 1929 devastates the country. Fast-forward to 1974 when divorcee Virginia Clay gets a job at Grand Central’s information booth. While exploring the abandoned art school, Virginia finds a painting by Clara Darden that looks very similar to a painting she had seen in an auction catalogue, leading her to believe that Clara may be the artist known as Clyde, whose valuable painting will soon be auctioned by Sotheby’s. Virginia searches for the artist who painted the Clyde as she seeks to unravel the circumstances behind Clara’s disappearance in 1931. Davis entices with a fast-paced mystery and expertly reveals parallels between the two periods in New York and between Clara and Virginia, resulting in a true crowd-pleaser. (Aug.)