This was a wonderful read! Even without the mystery, sleuthing and unique manner of deaths and attempted murders, I was fascinated by what I learned about oil paintings, by newbies and the old masters alike ... how paints were made, detecting forgeries, techniques, styles and more. Jean Sheldon's research into all types of subjects never fails to amaze me.
On the other hand, the crimes committed and how they were carried out are compelling and complicated. It seems like what could be described as a relatively straightforward mystery becomes a full-blown investigation that takes many twists and turns. Rayna Hunt, a somewhat uncomplicated individual, a brilliant artist who is thwarted by a horrific injury to her hand is the main character. Once she overcomes her frustration, fear, and depression, and finally embraces the use of a prosthesis, she trains to paint again, her character blossoms and she takes on teaching painting. Her class of seniors and troubled teens become the family she misses, with her daughter living in New Mexico. Rayna still has issues with self-esteem though and a very patient Paul, director of the Stratford Art Museum, waits in hope of a return to the relationship they had prior to her accident.
The characterizations in this book are so much fun yet realistic. The unity built between the seniors and the teens is wonderful to watch and they soon become a team with the purpose of keeping Rayna safe when she unknowingly becomes a target while embroiled in a police investigation. As an expert at discovering forgeries, her life is seriously threatened but who is responsible? Is it her beloved friend Paul? Why is she a suspect? How did so many paintings get switched in several different museums? It's not as though you could carry one in under your arm and replace the original hanging on the wall.
I am quickly becoming a huge fan of this author who can write such good mysteries in so many different styles. With several people involved in the crimes, the detective Diane Parker, Rayna and her art class involved in trying to solve the crimes, this book is a great balance of friendship and criminals. Fun and sometimes grisly at the same time. As the only member of my own family who can't even draw, I thoroughly enjoyed my romp in the art world. With Jean Sheldon's ability to bring a feeling of comfort in the midst of chaos, I loved this book.