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Hot enough for you? Today we’re off to the air-conditioned museum for a fictional visit to a globe-hopping mystery. Works of art are being destroyed and people are being killed! Who is behind this skullduggery? Find out more below and enjoy an excerpt from the first chapter of The Collector. Don’t forget to enter Lane’s giveaway for a $10 Starbucks gift card! Time for some iced coffee.
About the Book:
Art expert Emma Kelly arrives at the Metropolitan Museum to meet with disgraced philanthropist Boyle York only to learn he has been murdered. His body and a nearby masterpiece are splattered with blue paint. In the following days, works of art around the world are attacked with the same paint, which Emma believes has something to do with the Virgin Mary. Emma’s husband, Elliott Baldwin, the Assistant Director in charge of the FBI’s New York City field office, isn’t convinced but appreciates her expertise.
Following a lead, Emma travels to her other home in Bath, England, and continues her search for one of the most famous Nazi-looted paintings. When a diver hired to explore a sunken Nazi submarine is murdered with the same weapon used to kill Boyle York, Emma wonders if the art crimes on three different continents are actually an attempt to trip her up.
Emma races against the clock to countries with Virgin Mary apparition sites in an attempt to save the world’s most beloved artwork. Can she convince the Vatican to disavow the perpetrators and stop the attacks and bring justice to the mastermind behind them before it’s too late?
Read an Excerpt:
Monday in Manhattan
Everybody had a story and then another story. Even the police. I stood at the Metropolitan Museum entrance, shifting my weight from one foot to the other, relying on that philosophy to help me figure out how to get what I wanted. Left. I considered my predicament. My meeting with a potential client was to start in five minutes, but the yellow crime scene tape strung along the portico was uninterested. Right. I studied the NYPD officers lined up guarding the doors from people like me. I would plead my case to one of them. It was a matter of choosing the right one. One had a story that would make him or her more likely to let me in so I could be on time for my meeting.
I wasn’t the only person with a mission, standing outside the Met that day. A month ago, in mid-March, a hundred or so protestors had taken over the iconic steps. They came and they stayed. They were angry and united in their desire for the Met to cut all ties with the man I was there to meet. He was the president of the co-op board for a building, less than a quarter mile away, that became a death trap in one of the worst high-rise apartment fires in Manhattan’s history. According to their posters, many were relatives of the hundred plus people who had lost their life that day. Depending on which newspaper you read, the deaths were either due to the board’s misguided choices to keep homeowner fees low to help the senior citizens living at The Henckley Tower, or because for years the building’s managers had intentionally misled city inspectors. I hoped my theory about everyone having a story and then another story would hold fast, but neither view redeemed billionaire philanthropist Boyle York.
The people behind me in the April sun probably thought these famous steps had been there forever. Not so. The stairs were added to the building in 1975. A story and then another story. The steps were usually dotted with New Yorkers, side by side with tourists, eating, drawing, reading, flirting, texting, sunbathing all day long. Non-protesting locals no longer came to hang out here, either in sympathy for the deceased, or because they felt it was too much work to care about what happened to a bunch of rich people. For whatever reason, they no longer came, and this public space had been transformed. According to the New York Times, museum attendance was down significantly from the usual six million plus visitors a year.
One and then two people in the crowd caught me looking back at them. Whose side are you on? their looks demanded. A white van pulled up on Fifth Avenue and when members of a television crew got out, the chance to see someone famous diverted their attention. I turned my face from them and got back to deliberating, comparing, discarding one after another of the police officers. Today’s protest was peaceful, as they had been each day since the start. I had friends and acquaintances in most of the Met’s seventeen curatorial departments, and, according to them, the museum entrance had never been blocked; tourists hadn’t been harangued. I didn’t see anyone so much as littering. The protestors were asked to come no closer than the second landing from street level, and they hadn’t. So, what was the reason for today’s heightened police presence?
In less than a minute, a broad-shouldered African American man wearing a black polo and khakis, with a gold detective’s badge clipped to his belt, next to a real gun, came out the middle set of doors. The uniformed officers straightened to alert attention. He nodded to an one here and there, and spoke to a few, but mostly he scrutinized the demonstrators. Was he the one I should tell the tape didn’t apply to me? Of course, he was. If any of the others told me “Sure, go right ahead, what were we thinking making you wait here,” he could overrule them. I might as well save time and go straight to large and in charge. Here some people might make the mistake of confusing the job with the person, but I wasn’t one of them. I made eye contact and took a step toward him.
Reactively, I turned to the high-pitched voice and instantly regretted it. Valerie, my former sister-in-law, and now part-time employer was climbing the stairs to join me. Her progress was hindered only slightly by a black pencil skirt and four-inch heels.
“What are you doing here?” Her gestures were bird-like jerky.
I had never seen her still or calm. I exhaled to keep from getting jumpy myself.
Had I imagined the emphasis on you? No, I hadn’t. In the two years since the death of my then husband, Valerie’s brother, the woman’s treatment had gone from superficial sympathy all the way down to its current suspicious contempt. Why she hadn’t fired me from my job as title underwriter for fine arts at SIRA Fine Arts Insurance Corporation when I remarried six months ago, I had yet to fathom. My best guess was the adage about keeping your enemies closer. She wanted me to stay. We compromised and, for the last three months, I’d worked with her international clients, working a day or two a week for SIRA and spending the rest of the time getting my new fine art recovery agency off the ground, and being an adjunct professor at NYU. The arrangement worked well for me, but my new husband, Elliott, wanted me to cut all ties with SIRA. He didn’t trust Valerie and he wasn’t wild about my weekly trips to Europe.
She looked me up and down with narrowed, darting eyes. I stood stock-still, allowing myself to be scrutinized because I didn’t care anymore.
“Well?” Valerie prompted.
I hadn’t answered. Was it happening again? The drift. No. I had been sharp and present, even serious, for months.
She pointed at the crime scene tape. “Is this because of the protestors?”
I shrugged. “I don’t think so. It’s new.”
“Then what happened?” She tapped the phone she held. “Hmm, nothing online yet.” Her head jerked back at me. “Did someone try to steal a piece of art? Or, God forbid, did someone really get out with something? Is that why you’re here? You did it!”
I raised my eyebrows and my mouth fell open.
“I didn’t mean you stole a piece of art! I mean, you started your own art recovery agency and…”
I shook my head. “I don’t know what happened in the museum. I’m here for a meeting.”
My contacts worked in museums and insurance companies, where they knew me as a title underwriter. I was having a hard time getting word out about my new agency and hoped a real case would come out of the meeting.
“Just think, if someone stole something, you might have your first case.” She was fishing for me to tell her who I was meeting and why. She had tried that maneuver on me one too many times. I didn’t know the purpose of the meeting, but why give her that satisfaction? Had something finally happened in the art world, especially in Manhattan, that Valerie Patterson didn’t know about?
She patted my arm. “Don’t overdo it. Too much stress might be, well, not good. How are you? Really.” She was letting me know she hadn’t forgotten about my year of crazy.
I had metaphorically skied without snow ploughing and biked without my hand hovering over the brake. In my head, I called it my year of being Banksy.
I have always loved mysteries involving the world of art because they involve situations that are totally different from other crime stories. First of all, art thieves need to have working knowledge of valuable art collectibles and then they also need to get past the high security museums employ to keep their masterpieces safe. But what about the average person, like me, who wouldn’t know a Degas from a swap meet special? That’s where Lane Stone’s new mystery The Collector comes to the rescue. Priceless pieces of art are being attacked and Emma, her main character is on the trail of international art saboteurs. Not only is it easy to understand the art world, but the reader grows to respect importance of the work being destroyed. You’ll find plenty of action, romance and intrigue in this fast paced story in A Big Picture Mystery Series.
About Lane Stone
Lane Stone lives in Alexandria, Virginia and Lewes, Delaware with her husband, Larry Korb, and their Standard Schnauzer, Cordy. She’s the author of THE COLLECTOR, an art thriller, which is the first book in The Big Picture trilogy. The first book in the Old Town Antiques Mystery series, DEAD MEN DON’T DECORATE, will be published in November 2022, and will be written as Cordy Abbott. She is the author of the Pet Palace Mysteries and the Tiara Investigation Mystery series.
When not writing she enjoys characteristic baby boomer pursuits: being a dog Mom, traveling and volunteering for good causes, like AAUW and the Delaware River & Bay Lighthouse Foundation. She serves on several boards.
She has a post-graduate certificate in Antiquities Theft and Art Crime. She is represented by Dawn Dowdle, Blue Ridge Literary Agency.
Stay in touch – Visit her at www.LaneStoneBooks.com, on Twitter @themenopausedog on Goodreads and on Facebook @LaneStoneWriter