Amy Myers is known for her short stories and historical novels featuring Victorian chef Auguste Didier and chimney sweep Tom Wasp. Her contemporary series features classic car detective Jack Colby, and she is currently working on a new 1920s mystery series featuring Nell Drury, chef at Kent’s Wychbourne Court.
Award winning Frances Fyfield’s crime novels are all notable for her elegant, clear writing style, and in this latest addition to her distinguished list it provides the thread that leads the reader through the intricate maze of mysteries that her plot involves.
A Painted Smile features two characters who have featured in earlier novels: Di Porteous, now a widow and eager to agree to her young stepgrandson’s suggestion of holding an exhibition of her late husband’s art collection; and her friend art model Sarah Fortune.
The novel opens with the arrival of a weird reply to Di’s enquiry to an art gallery in a small cathedral town about a particular painting. The email is from Winifred Doris, Curator, ‘explaining’ mysterious circumstances making her unable to help Di but suggesting she come to the museum and take the painting away if she can track it down. This, combined with the death of a local artist, triggers many puzzles and questions while Di herself struggles with her personal relationships and moral dilemmas.
There is no central murder in this novel, but crime itself is constantly under the author’s microscope and is skilfully examined. It is this aspect, together with her evocative prose, that links the novel, rather than the characters themselves who didn’t always come alive for me; being new to the series, I felt I’d walked into a party already in full flow – but once I got the hang of it, I joined in with pleasure thanks to its expert host.