Friday, September 17, 2010

Mystery With a Heart

Reviewed by Phee Paradise

The Black Madonna

By Davis Bunn

Strong female characters are common these days, so Storm Syrrell in The Black Madonna is no surprise. But what I liked about the book was that she and her closest friend solved a difficult problem while their capable male friends were sidelined.

Two wealthy art collectors are bidding against each other on an eclectic list of items. They range from an early twentieth century Russian painting to a mythical clock. Money is no object, but both buyers are hiding behind someone else. Storm has been hired by one of them without meeting her employer.

This job is not only odd, but turns out to be dangerous. Storm and her friend who works for Homeland Security try to find a connection between the objects. A bombing in the West Bank and several abductions are also somehow connected to the art collecting.

The answer is found where extreme wealth, international politics and simple faith meet. Storm uncovers the conspiracy and finds an elegant solution. The setting requires some knowledge of art, politics and even mountain climbing. Bunn integrates this information into the story so well, that readers won’t even know they have been educated. But the plot is so complex, I had to put the book down to think about the problem and Storm’s solution, to understand it.

Yet, Storm is a rather humble character and because of her the plot is accessible. She has integrity and cares about how global issues impact individuals. This quality in her raises the book above a simple spy novel and gives it a heart.

I recommend it, even if this is not a genre you usually read.

Pros: Mystery, romance and some unpredictable twists, with strong female characters and an unexpected ending. The story also has a heart.

Cons: It is the second book in a series and although the author offers some back story, there is some sense of starting part way through.

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