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Friday, December 7, 2012

Cover-Up: Review

Cover-Up by Anthony Oliver (1987)

And just what are we covering up?  Art world skulduggery? Drug smuggling? Murder most foul?  Lizzie Thomas, housewife and queen of the art of gossip, and John Webber, retired police inspector turned private investigator, are on the case and ready to find out.

Joseph Greenwood takes a hefty sum of money with him on a quiet drive to English countryside.  He's heard that a valuable unknown painting by Stanley Spencer may be hanging in the Flaxfield hide-away of one-time actress Victoria Varley.  Greenwood barely has time to look the painting over before he's dead and the cash has disappeared.  Not long after, the actress has done a disappearing act of her own.  There are American art "dealers" looking for the painting, Greenwood's wife looking for the missing cash, a fellow policeman suspecting drugs smuggled in frames, and Lizze & John looking for answers to all the niggling questions that surround what looks at first to be a simple death by natural causes.  

This is a fairly middle-of-the-road mystery.  Oliver's strong suit is his characters.  John and Lizzie are well-defined, interesting, and, most importantly, believable people.  Lizzie is, as mentioned about, the queen of the art of gossip.  And we know this because Oliver makes it plain in her interactions with the other characters.  I've read mysteries before where a certain character supposedly just had this "quality" that made others confide all sorts of secrets to them...but I never got a real feel for why that was.  I certainly never thought that I'd be spilling the beans myself.  With Lizzie, it's different.  I could see her plopping a cup of tea and some biscuits down if front of me and in no time at all she'd know everything I had to tell. I thoroughly enjoy the way Lizzie and John interact and form a team.

The weakest part of Oliver's story is the continuity.  If I flip back through the story, he doesn't really jump around all that much....but it certainly feels that way.  There's a bumpy, erratic feel to the storyline which makes it just a little difficult to stay the course.  Fortunately the mystery itself and the characters are interesting enough to keep reader going till the end. A solid three-star outing.

Quote:

An amateur would have pursued an opening like that but Mrs. Thomas was not an amateur. Gossip, that casual exchange of unproven fact, was a pleasant pastime she had raised to the level of a fine art. Honed in the professional school of the Welsh valleys, in the unsophisticated Suffolk she was like an Olympic gold-medallist unfairly competing at village sports. (p. 31)

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