It was tough to be a woman in Roman times, Kari, the 13 year old narrator of The Third
Lucretia, tells us. If a woman was raped, as Lucretia was twenty-five hundred years ago,
she was blamed and lost her honor. To save her family from such shame, Lucretia killed herself
and thus, unwittingly became famous after her death.
Two thousand years later, in the 1600s, Rembrandt, a Dutch painter, related her tragedy in
two of his pictures.
Kari and her friend Lucas are familiar with both these paintings as they had seen them in a
joint exhibition in Minneapolis, their hometown. They also saw a man copying the paintings and
going through a lot of trouble to keep his picture hidden.
Months later, while in London, they see the same guy, in a disguise, copying another of
Rembrandt’s paintings at the National Gallery. Suspicious of his intentions, they decide to spy
on him. A difficult endeavor as the man does not let anyone close. A finger, a dark background,
and some lacy fabric is all they manage to see after days of hard work.
Then a third painting of Lucretia is discovered in Amsterdam and Willem Mannefeldt, the
world’s greatest expert on Rembrandt, authenticates it as belonging to the master. But Kari and
Lucas believe the painting is a fake. Lucas’s photographic memory has recognized the man copying
the paintings in the handsome face of Willem Mannefeldt. Together, they convince Kari’s mother
to take them to Amsterdam to find further proof of their suspicions.
But how are two teenage girls to outdo the charismatic and respected expert in his own town
and prove the painting is a fake? Especially when the man has recognized them and is intent on
stopping them by whatever means are necessary.
The Third Lucretia is a smart mystery with two interesting teen characters who relate
to adults in a realistic way, respectfully and yet pushing their limits as real girls do.
In The Third Lucretia, the first of the Kari and Lucas Mysteries, Susan Runholt has
written exactly the type of mystery I would have loved when I was a preteen and teen girl.