By Catherine Dunbar
Poisoned Pen Press - July 2000
ISBN: 1890208388 - Paperback
Suspense / Thriller
Reviewed by: Jo Rogers, MyShelf.Com
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In a departure from her usual historical novel, British author, Catherine Dunbar, brings us her first mystery, False Images. A resounding success in the United Kingdom, Poisoned Pen Press will release the first U.S. edition in July.
Leone Flemming, daughter of London judge, Sir Richard Flemming, is plagued by a recurring nightmare. In her dream, she is six years old, and she is hiding behind the drapes while she listens to her mother, Julia Flemming, play the piano. Her mother finds her, and kisses her goodbye as she is leaving. Leone hesitates and runs after her mother, but she is too late to stop her from leaving, or to slow her down enough to prevent the fatal accident that takes her mother from her. She feels her mother's death was her fault.
Leone is now an adult, a businesswoman. She and her friend, Philippa Hope-Brown, have an art gallery. Phil runs the gallery and Leone restores and cleans paintings. But the one she is restoring now troubles her. Despite the fact that the Arthur Devis portrait of the Wallace family has been in the family for generations, Leone feels it is a forgery. She is determined to be certain one way or another, but Lady Carleton's son, Piers, is equally determined that she not. When the museum that is going to put the painting on exhibit orders the tests, Piers is furious. And when the gallery is broken into, Leone feels Piers is responsible. But the painting wasn't there, for Leone, in complete distrust of Piers Carleton, had taken the painting home with her.
The burglary is all but forgotten as Phil discovers a major new talent in modern art, Steve Ross. She throws herself into preparing for an exhibition of his work, and falls in love with the soft-spoken, quiet genius, whose work is the opposite of his character. His emotions, which he seldom displays, explode from the canvas in brilliant and contrasting colors.
Unbeknown to Leone, however, one of the men her father sentenced to prison has gotten out and is vowing revenge. Vic Morenzo has vowed to get everyone responsible for his imprisonment, and the thug who ratted on him has already been found dead; the sight of his mutilated body still haunts the investigating officers. He has vowed to kill all Flemming's family.
Suddenly, Leone's old boyfriend reenters her life. She and Jack Thursley broke off their relationship when she refused to go to Hong Kong with him and instead remained close to her father. When he offers her a ride home from a book launch, she accepts, and when someone follows them, she figures it is a disgruntled Peirs Carleton. Carleton's scheme of keeping himself afloat by selling off the family masterpieces and replacing them with forgeries had been exposed when Leone revealed the Devis was a fake.
Leone first learns of Morenzo when the receptionist's boyfriend is attacked at the gallery and is stabbed almost to death. From there, Leone's nightmare begins to change as she remembers more and more about the night her mother died.
Jack and Leone draw closer together as they plunge into the past, trying to solve the puzzle that holds the key to the present. What they find will keep you reading until the twisted surprise at the end.