cover image The Appraisal

The Appraisal

Anna Porter. ECW (Legato, U.S. dist.; Jaguar, Canadian dist.), $15.95 trade paper (336p) ISBN 978-1-77041-410-5

Porter (Bookfair Murders) delivers an intelligent and exhilarating thriller following art expert Helena Marsh’s mission to restore a Titian painting to its rightful owner, Géza Márton. The story reaches back to 1945, when Géza was taken prisoner but survived several years in a Soviet labor camp. In the present, Géza, now a wealthy merchant living in Canada, hires Helena to help him buy the painting back from the mysterious János Krestin. Several other buyers are interested in bidding on the painting, which results in a few dead bodies along the way. The story is told in part from the point of view of Attila Feher, a former policeman working as a private investigator. He is hired to tail Helena and push her to leave the country, but his interest in the case shifts as he delves deeper into it. Much of the intrigue involves Hungary’s complex history of occupation and oppression, as well as past deeds and identities that characters are hiding or trying to forget. Helena is a cunning chameleon, skilled in self-defense. Porter’s stylish story vividly transports readers to Budapest and other European locales and keeps them hooked as her well-developed characters navigate corruption and deception. Agent: John Pearce, Westwood Creative Artists. (Oct.)