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Monday, July 07, 2014

The Art Restorer by Julian Sanchez and The Lazarus Curse by Tessa Harris

The Art Restorer  is interesting as a mystery and as an insight into the artist Jose Maria Sert, his two wives, and all of the friends who were the elite of Parisian creative life during his life time.

The plot focuses on Enrique Alonso who has returned to San Sebastian for the re-opening of the San Telmo Museum where his ex-wife is in charge of public relations.    Bety has become good friends with Craig Bruckner, the retired art restorer who has been aiding in the restorations of Sert's works.  Enrique meets him and is also impressed with the older man.

But when Bruckner, a former Olympic swimmer, is found drowned, Bety questions whether it was truly an accident.  Enrique and Bety begin doing a little investigating into the circumstances and possible motives...if indeed, Bruckner's death was not an accident.

The information they garner about Sert and his life and work may have had something to do with Bruckner's death.  There are two sides of the novel--and both are fascinating:  1) the relationship of Enrique and Bety as they follow their respective leads, and 2) the world of Paris, Sert, and the Nazi Occupation.

The writing style is a little abrupt and may be a result of translation, but you become accustomed to its rhythm.

I liked the book, the plot, and the characters, but I also found that the information about Sert and the Paris literati of the time was just as fascinating.

Serts' first wife, Misia, was pretty amazing.  Although she is not a large part of the story, I couldn't quit thinking about her influence.  I
mmortalized by Proust as Princess Yourbeleftiev; Ravel dedicated "Le Cyne" to her; friends with Coco Chanel; patron of Sergei Diahliev's Ballet Russe; her salon visited by Picasso, Paul Morand, Debussy, and every talented artist and intellectual in Paris; painted by Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Vuillard, Valloton, and Pierre Bonnard; many photographs by Pierre Bonnard

By Toulouse-Lautrec

Links to completely different versions:

by Renoir

another by Toulouse-Lautrec 

by Bonnard

This link is about Sert's second wife's family: the Mdivani's

Read in June; blog review scheduled for July

NetGalley/Open Road Media

Mystery/Contemporary Fiction/Historical Fiction.  July 8, 2014.  Print length:  345 pages.

The Lazarus Curse   

This is part of the Dr. Thomas Silkstone series set in England in the 1780's, and the only one I've read. 

The plot has multiple threads:  1) the categorization of specimen's of flora from the West Indies at the request of Joseph Banks, 2) the treatment of slaves in England, and the attempts to challenge the law, 3) the trafficking of corpses for dissection, 4) the subjugation of women, and 5) murder.

This is the second book I've read in the last year dealing with Joseph Bank's and his financing of expeditions for the Royal Society.  

There were sections concerning abuse of slaves that were hard to read and the conclusion is a cliff hanger.  All of the murder mystery portions are solved, and the cliff hanger only involves Silkstone's personal life.  Since I've not read any of the previous novels in this series, I'm only guessing that they, too, ended in some form of cliff hanger concerning the personal life of Dr. Silkstone.  The cliff hanger angered me, not just because it was a cliff hanger, but the incident itself shocked and frustrated me.  

Overall, I'm not quite sure what I think of the series based on this one novel.  I was certainly involved while reading, and yet don't think I would go out of my way to read more.

Read in June; review scheduled for July 7.

NetGalley/Kensington Books.

Historic Mystery.   July 29, 2014.  Print length:


  1. I like the sound of The Art Restorer. I am not familiar with Sert, but I do like art history.

    The Lazarus Curse has a great cover. It's too bad the book wasn't better. Cliffhangers are one thing, but to be frustrated by the end as well, isn't good.

  2. Wendy - I had never heard of Sert before; evidently he has fallen out of favor partly because his paintings are either murals or so large they can't be transported even if they are on canvas. So...doing an exhibition requires being where the paintings are.

    One of his murals is at 30 Rockefeller Center. He was an interesting character with very interesting wives!

  3. Both books sound like a great mystery read; it was a pity that The Lazarus Curse was a disappointment. Cliffhanger is great to capture the readers' curiosity, but unnecessary ones can be a kill off.

  4. Melody--there was so much of interest in the Art Restorer that I've added Sanchez' The Antiquarian (which actually preceded this one) to my list!)

  5. I like the cover for the Lazarus Curse - it would definitely pull me in - a pity you didn't really love it.
    Lynn :D

  6. The Art Restorer sounds interesting, especially the setting and secondary characters.

  7. Lynn - I like the cover, too. And I admit there were plenty of interesting parts to the novel.

    Teresa - I love reading for entertainment and learning new stuff!

  8. Oh, the Art Restorer sound like fun!

  9. Stefanie - I love that Sanchez used a real artist with such fascinating connections as the basis for the mystery!