Saturday, December 28, 2019

"A Trace of Deceit"

Karen Odden is the author of bestselling novels A Lady in the Smoke and A Dangerous Duet.

She applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, A Trace of Deceit, and reported the following:
From page 69:
“Or someone could have switched them afterward, inside the Sibleys’ room,” [Matthew said].

“That’s possible,” I allowed. “Though the forgery would have to be very good for the exchange not to be detected. But why would someone bring in a painting only to remove it again? Wouldn’t that raise the guard’s suspicion?”

“I don’t think so. Someone could have changed his mind,” he replied. “Mr. Pagett told me he often spent hours in the Sibley room, sorting the paintings, placing them side-by-side as he determined what to hang on his walls and where.”

I could imagine that.

“And while an inventory is maintained for each room,” he continued, “the description would probably be brief—something less specific than the one in the auction catalog. So if the inventory listed merely ‘French portrait of a woman,’ one painting might plausibly be mistaken for another. Of course, all those written records were lost in the fire.” He spread his hands. “I know Felix is certain it’s the original, but if Mrs. Jesper’s painting were a forgery, how could you tell?”

I smoothed my napkin again and laced my fingers on top of it. “The difference can be something as minute as a variation in the shape of the signature or the placement of it. Merely a quarter of an inch to the right or left can give it away. But Edwin would say the signature is easy to mimic. It’s more difficult to reproduce the precise way a painter wraps the canvas around the bars, and the length or weight or roundness of the brushstrokes, or the tone of the painting.”

He looked dubious. “That sounds rather intangible.”

“I suppose, but even a layman can usually detect the difference when the two are side by side.”
On page 69 of A Trace of Deceit, Annabel Rowe and Inspector Matthew Hallam sit together at a teashop, tentatively beginning to collaborate and to propose some possible explanations for why Annabel’s brother Edwin was killed and how a priceless French painting that was ostensibly burned in the Pantechnicon fire years before has reappeared and then been stolen. Their tea-table is cluttered with tea and coffee pots, cups and saucers, and plates of scones and sandwiches, some hanging over the edge—much as the mysteries of Edwin’s death and the painting at this point seem cluttered with details that don’t form a coherent whole. In this moment, Matthew sketches a potential logic, and Annabel responds; she suggests another possibility, and he counters. The tea things move around the table and the dialogue flows back and forth. And then Annabel explains that if the stolen painting is a forgery, it is possible to tell by particular details, thus proving to Matthew (and the reader) that she is valuable to his investigation. She is, at heart, searching for truth, as is he. They are, literally and metaphorically, at the same table, although she drinks tea and he prefers coffee. So, yes, in many ways this page is representative of how Annabel and Matthew have their differences but will work together well in subsequent scenes.
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Coffee with a Canine: Karen Odden and Rosy.

--Marshal Zeringue