If a reader prefers to experience relationships as they develop, they will definitely want to begin with the first book in the series. That said, it’s a series well worth beginning, and this book is no exception.
Ohio antiquities dealer Kate Hamilton is back in the UK, spending time with the English police detective she’s been seeing and helping Ivor Tweedy with his antique shop while he has surgery. In the past, Kate’s mother has filled in at Kate’s shop. This time, however, she has an adventure of her own with a new man in her life while Kate’s best friend takes over the reins of the shop. Kate is hoping for a successful season as Ivor has spent most of his savings on rehabilitation care. She’s also hoping for more time with Tom Mallory, the handsome Detective Inspector she’s been seeing when she can make it to England for a visit.
Things are looking up for Ivor’s shop when a woman brings in a valuable urn from the Qing Dynasty. Kate is sure of the authenticity of the urn, and signs a contract to handle the sale for the woman. Business concluded, Kate locks the shop and heads to the village for the annual Green Maiden Fair, not knowing that everything is going to go sideways almost as soon as she arrives.
While at the fair, the woman who brought in the urn rushes the stage, grabbing the young woman playing the green maiden, and dies from stab wounds she received just before she appeared on the stage.
Just as the emergency crews start their efforts, Kate is called back to the shop by the owner of a nearby Chinese restaurant. Ivor’s shop has been burgled, and upon entry Kate discovers blood from the woman’s stab wounds. To make things even worse, the urn is missing, which could spell disaster for Ivor who will be liable for the value of the urn if it isn’t found and returned.
As Kate starts to unravel the puzzle, more questions than answers arise. Why did this woman send her only daughter away and then set herself up to live in self-imposed isolation? Why has she not enjoyed any of the money that has been left to her by her deceased husband? What is the meaning of the photograph over the woman’s bed?
In addition to these questions, there are other issues taking place that are pulling at Kate’s attention. Lady Barbara, who lives in the family home, Finchley Hall, is almost completely out of money and is hoping the National Trust will take on restoring and running the castle so she doesn’t have to sell to developers. Lady Barbara’s good friend and Kate’s host for her stay, Vivian, meets with Kate and she proposes Lady Barbara consider selling some items to help in the short-term. Kate helps value them and Lady Barbara wants to utilize the new auction house that has just gotten established in the area. Although Kate has some reservations, she can find nothing to indicate the auction house is not completely worthy and they proceed with an initial auction which is successful beyond Kate’s expectations. Still, at the end of the auction there was one piece which sold for much less than expected, leaving Kate with more questions about the auction house owners.
Finally, there is the woman’s daughter. After much searching, Kate meets her and finds her to be a likeable young woman. They develop a good rapport and Kate asks the daughter to give Ivor time to repay her for the loss of the urn rather than take the issue to court. All seems to be on a good path when the daughter disappears. Where is she and is she in trouble?
All these divergent threads begin to merge together at the same time the area is experiencing a major flooding. As all these issues move toward conclusion, the pace of the book picks up, along with the actions of several characters. The Art of Betrayal, which starts out as a well-paced, easy-to-read cozy, turns into a page-turner readers won’t want to put down. The end, which is not hard to figure out for many mystery buffs, is none-the-less satisfying in its conclusion. Well plotted and well written, this should satisfy most cozy readers.
My thanks to Crooked Lane Books and NetGalley for providing me with an advanced digital read copy of the book for review. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own.