The Art of the Decoy (A Scandal Mountain Antiques Mystery)
1st in Series
Setting – Vermont
Crooked Lane Books (April 5, 2022)
Hardcover : 336 pages
ISBN-10 : 1643859641
ISBN-13 : 978-1643859644
Digital ASIN : B098PXZNDF
Perfect for fans of Jane K. Cleland and Connie Berry, Tricia Esden’s series debut is sure to please.
After her mother is sent to prison for art forgery, Edie Brown returns to Northern Vermont to rebuild her family’s fine art and antiques business. She’s certain she can do it now that her mother is gone. After all, butting heads with her mom over bad business practices was what drove Edie away three years ago, including a screwup that landed Edie on probation for selling stolen property.
When Edie scores a job appraising a waterfowl decoy collection at a hoarder’s farmhouse, she’s determined to take advantage of the situation to rebuild the business’s tarnished reputation and dwindling coffers. In lieu of payment, Edie intends to cherry-pick an exceptional decoy carved by the client’s renowned Quebecoise folk artist ancestors. Only the tables turn when the collection vanishes.
Accused of the theft, Edie’s terrified that the fallout will destroy the business and land her in prison next to her mom. Desperate, she digs into the underbelly of the local antiques and art world. When Edie uncovers a possible link between the decoy theft and a deadly robbery at a Quebec museum, she longs to ask her ex-probation officer, and ex-lover, for help. But she suspects his recent interest in rekindling their romance may hide a darker motive.
With the help of her eccentric uncle Tuck and Kala, their enigmatic new employee, Edie must risk all she holds dear to expose the thieves and recover the decoys before the FBI’s Art Crime Team or the ruthless thieves themselves catch up with her.
Edie Brown and her mother were not seeing eye to eye in running the family’s fine art and antiques business, but when a huge error had Edie arrested and put on probation for selling stolen goods it was the final straw. She left not only the town but the state.
Now her mother is in prison for art forgery and her uncle has called her home to help him so they don’t lose the family business. He sends her to an event appraising items in folk art, her specialty. She meets a woman there with an interesting duck decoy and says she has access to a whole collection. An appraisal this big could be just what Edie needs to get the business back on firm footing.
Edie, her uncle, and Kala work hard to document each piece but when Edie returns to present the appraisal her world turns upside down. The collection has been stolen and the woman accuses her of the theft. Fearing she could end up sharing a cell with her mom she sets off on a quest to find the missing decoys. What she learns is that this robbery may be linked to another in Canada and that she may not be able to trust a man from her past who seems to want to get back together.
Edie has no choice. She teams up with her Uncle Tuck and their tech-savvy employee Kala to catch a thief before things run more “afowl” and her goose gets cooked by the FBI Art Crimes Division for stealing the duck decoys.
First, I have to say the cover of this book is amazing. It draws the reader in and then we read about the beautiful home/grounds where we find Scandal Mountain Fine Arts and Antiques. “Nestled in the foothills of Mount Mansfield . . . just south of the Canadian border”, Scandal Mountain is now enjoying a resurgence with new families moving in and new businesses opening and the author brings the town and area to life with her wonderful descriptions. She also made it so easy to visualize the decoys.
Ms. Esden also introduces us to some wonderful characters in Edie, Tuck, and Kala. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses and all developed nicely throughout the story while leaving plenty of room for growth in future books. I really enjoyed Kala and all her knowledge. All three are realistic and relatable.
There were also very interesting characters specific to this story, suspects and victims, and victims that may be suspects. They are mixed up in a complex mystery that grabbed me right away. I have always been interested in collecting antiques and this plot played right into that interest. It was so entertaining to follow along with Edie, Tuck, and Kala and the different ways they dug in and followed each clue. Their instincts were strong throughout the book. I was definitely made smarter by what I was reading. And the final page made me smile.
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About the Author
Trish Esden loves museums, gardens, wilderness, dogs, and birds, in various orders depending on the day. She lives in northern Vermont where she deals antiques with her husband, a profession she’s been involved with since her teens. Don’t ask what her favorite type of antique is. She loves hunting down old bottles and rusty barn junk as much as she enjoys fine art and furnishings.
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