Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Cavalier in White: Review

The Cavalier in White is the first book in a trilogy by Marcia Muller (1986). The short series features art security expert Joanna Stark and revolves around her efforts to track down Anthony Parducci, a brilliant art thief who has managed to elude the authorities for years. In Cavalier, Joanna is brought out of retirement--a self-imposed seclusion really--by her partner when the eponymous work of art, a painting by Frans Hals, is stolen from a San Francisco gallery. A gallery that was wired for security by their company. And the son of her long-time friends, the Wheatleys, is trying to cut a deal with the insurance company for the safe return of the painting. A security guard from the gallery, a man who also has connections to the Wheatleys, disappears and the investigators have to wonder if he's involved. Joanna spots clues that make her think Parducci might be involved--but why is he interested in a group of people who might possibly have an adopted son? And why did Mike Wheatley (the aforementioned son) give Parducci the address of Joanna's apartment? She will have to find all the missing links before she will retrieve the painting--but not before murder is done and she is forced to confront her past.

This was a strong opening to the series. Joanna has some issues that she needs to work through and it was enjoyable watching her on that journey. The mystery elements were fairly played and fairly intriguing. While it is fairly obvious fairly early that some of Joanna's suspicions about the the theft are correct, there is a surprise in store that gives the wrap-up a good twist. It was, however, frustrating to watch Joanna repeatedly get herself into a situation that she knows she shouldn't be in, then get out of it, and turn around in time to plunge into another one. It wouldn't be quite so bad if she did it without thinking. But she tells us that she knows she shouldn't and then does it anyway. It was interesting to see her make some progress with her issues by the end of the story. But it is obvious she has a long way to go. Good solid beginning. ★★

This fulfills the "Crime Other Than Murder" on the Silver Vintage Bingo card. There is a murder--but that is not the focus of the story. Joanna's purpose is to strack down the art thief and determine whether Parducci is that thief.

**Edited 9/1/15: I have not yet used this square for a Bingo and will be transferring The Cavalier in White to the "Color in Title" square.


fredamans said...

I love stories about art thieves! Usually an exciting plot for me, I might really like this one! Great review!

Jacquie said...

I remember reading this when it first came out and liking it. Ha! That's all I remember. But I still have my paperback along with the other two in the series. Perhaps I'll put them on my TBR-AGAIN pile. As you have an affection for academic mysteries, I've collected art mysteries, as it was my profession for many years. Thanks for a good review and reminding me of this series!