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The Mystery of the Third Lucretia
A Kari and Lucas Mystery. Number 1

by Susan Runholt


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.

Highly recommended.

The Book

Puffin Books / Penguin Books
Tweener fiction / Mystery / Ages 11 up / Grades: 5 up
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The Reviewer

Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban
Reviewed 2009
NOTE: Reviewer Carmen Ferreiro-Esteban is author of the award-winning YA fantasy novel Two Moon Princess [2007], recipient of the ForeWord Magazine Bronze Award for Juvenile Fiction. Its sequel, The King in the Stone, is scheduled to be published in 2010.
© 2009