Edinburg is a very old, very Scottish city. Each city corner has a pub and each pub it’s own brew. Men in kilts walk the narrow stone walkways on their way to work. Edinburg is a calm peaceful place. Hopefully this is the exact workplace where a recently disgraced employee of the Civic Gallery of London can restore his reputation.
Thomas Tallis left the Civic Gallery under a cloud. His reputation was suspect, he was forced to sign a non disclosure agreement and he was dismissed from his position. He has been sent to authenticate the provenance of a watercolor that will be donated to the Guild, the art museum in West End Edinburg. This is an effort to remove him from public scrutiny and to avoid further investigations.
The assignment may be just what Tallis , the son of Sir Raymond Tallis, Deputy director of MI6, needs. Along with the job upheaval, is the upheaval in his personal life. Tallis and his wife are involved in acrimonious divorce negotiations and a hostile child custody battle.
However, the job at hand is one that Tallis can certainly handle.
Upon arriving at the Guild, Thomas is greeted by the director, Sir Dennis Carter. Carter clearly outlines Thomas’s duties. He is to certify the provenance of the painting and quickly go back to London. This strikes Thomas as a bit of an odd request. He hasn’t even unpacked or seen the painting yet.
The other issue Sir Dennis raises is the importance of Thomas’s job at the Guild. The painting Thomas is to authenticate is “Goldenacre,” a much praised watercolor by Charles Rennie Mackintosh of Edinburg. It must be authenticated before it can be donated to the Guild. The donation, according to Sir Dennis, is not a “ mere acquisition,” it is a milestone. It is historic. It is a watershed in the Guilds collection. Sir Dennis needs and wants Tallis to get this job done very quickly, very smoothly, very quietly.
Some odd things have recently occurred. Noted Glasgow artist Robert Love has been brutally murdered in his studio. No suspects. No motive. Any ties to the “Goldenacre?”
Tallis arranged to see “Goldenacre” in order to authenticate the painting. Of course, the question is who is donating “Goldenacre” and why are they?
“Goldenacre” is the property of the late Lord Melrose who died eighteen months ago. His estate passed to his two adult children Olivia and Felix.
Lord Melrose willed them Denholm House, the family home, the surrounding property including the Sunken Garden and all the house furnishings. “Goldenacre” hangs on the bedroom wall of the late Lady of the house. The inheritance also comes with a massive tax bill. Olivia and Felix wish to take advantage of the “Acceptance Instead of Tax” provision of inheritance laws. They stand to receive a credit if 12 Million pounds against their tax bill in return for Goldenacre. This painting is important to many people. Olivia and Felix have plans.
All Tallis wants to do is physically see the painting, authenticate the provenance, sign the documents and return to London to see his son. Strangely various excuses and reasons for not being allowed to see the painting pop up.
The quick easy authentication becomes a negotiation, a missed meeting, a postponement. Why? Are there issues?
A city councilor who blocked the erection of a film studio is murdered. Then there is a strange cocktail party. Sir Dennis keeps insisting that Thomas get on with the task. Is the painting real?
How will this end? Poor Thomas Tallis. So many roadblocks. So many people murdered. So many questions. What will be the answer?
Philip Miller’s book is a literary masterpiece. So many layers to peel back in this mystery.