Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"A Dangerous Talent," by Aaron Elkins and Charlotte Elkins

This cozy mystery with the engaging female sleuth Alix London is a Kindle Monthly Deal at $1.99.

A Dangerous Talent (An Alix London Mystery), by Aaron Elkins and Charlotte Elkins
Price: $9.99 $1.99 (save 80%)
271 pages, with a 4.2-star rating from 160 reviews

"This book introduces you to Alix London, art restorer, consultant, and daughter of convicted forger. The third making the first two a more challenging career choice than they might otherwise have been. When Christine LeMay hires her to authenticate a Georgia O'Keefe painting she's already promised to purchase for 3MM, Alix thinks this might just be the start of the art advising career she'd hoped for before her dad's imprisonment left that dream in tatters. The two women forge a fast friendship as they travel to Santa Fe, New Mexico to view the painting at the gallery of one of Chris' long-time friends. Trouble quickly finds them, and Alix begins to suspect that the painting might not be what it's cracked up to be. What follows is a fun, fast-paced romp through a well-described northern New Mexico as Alix and Chris try to unravel the provenance of the O'Keefe. A Dangerous Talent is an absorbing and entertaining mystery with just the right combination of intrigue, romance, and humor. The pages fly by and leave you wanting more." -- Amazon reviewer

Alix London has a promising career as an art consultant, a sumptuous condo in Seattle’s toniest neighborhood, a gorgeous figure, and a presence that exudes Ivy League breeding and old money. She has it all…or does she? Only Alix knows that the image she presents to the world is a carefully constructed mirage that veils an embarrassing truth. A brilliant, once-promising art student, the daughter of a prominent New York art conservator, her world was left in ruins when her father went to prison for art forgery. Now a Harvard dropout with an emptied bank account, she is languishing in a career that has produced little more than a lucky house-sitting gig. But all of that changes when Alix meets Christine Lemay, a novice art collector with money to burn and a hot tip on a recently discovered painting by American master Georgia O’Keeffe. Chris hires Alix to perform the authentication, an assignment that finally could launch Alix into the big leagues. But soon after her arrival in Santa Fe, she finds herself tangled up in a web of forgery, deceit—and murder. Anxious to avoid becoming the next victim, she teams up with FBI Special Agent Ted Ellesworth—and gets a little unlikely help from her roguish father—to uncover the truth behind the painting and those who would kill to have it. Sharp, witty, and devilishly fun, A Dangerous Talent offers an insider’s look into the surprisingly treacherous contemporary art world.

Q&A with Charlotte and Aaron Elkins, authors of A Dangerous Talent



Question: A Dangerous Talent is a fast-paced mystery set in the high end Art world. Alix London is the daughter of an infamous art forger who is called upon to help verify the authenticity of nothing less than a Georgia O'Keeffe, and things go south from there. Can you tell us about the inspiration for this story? Was there a reason that you chose Georgia O'Keeffe specifically?
Charlotte: In casting around for a background for a character, I remembered a fundraiser I'd attended when we were living back East. The celebrity guest was high up in the New York art scene, and the society scene as well. Not long afterwards, this glamorous person was convicted in a price-fixing scandal that destroyed her career and her reputation, and barely missed earning her jail time. Since there have been similar profile cases, and I became intrigued with the idea of developing a character, not based one of these high-society felons, but about the daughter of one, whose life had been turned down upside down by the scandal. And Alix London was born.
Question: There is a lot of great and in-depth art information in A Dangerous Talent. Can you tell us about some of the research you did?
Charlotte and Aaron: We never write about a place we haven't been to and researched. We based ourselves in Santa Fe (wonderful restaurants!) where there is a new Georgia O'Keeffe museum and also a research center dedicated to her. We toured the museum, of course, and applied for and were given permission to do some work in the research center. We'd also made an appointment to tour her studio in the tiny village of Abiquiu, 50 miles north of Santa Fe, in glorious red-rock country.
In Taos, we spent a night in the house of O'Keeffe's friend, art patron and local doyenne Mabel Dodge Luhan. Now a conference center, this was the house in which O'Keeffe spent her first summer in New Mexico, so there are many memories of her. There, you can brush your teeth or take a morning bath in the only bathroom in the world with windows personally painted by DH Lawrence, another friend of Mabel's who spent a lot of time in the house.
Question: A Dangerous Talent isn't all art authentication; there are a few explosions, white-knuckle car chase scenes, a Lamborghini, and even a bit of romance, but at its heart it's a true mystery with a great heroine. Will Alix London fans see her again? Can you tell us a little more about what's in store for her next?
Charlotte and Aaron: Not only will Alix's fans see her again, but they'll see many of the characters they meet in A Dangerous Talent. Her roguish forger-father, now gone straight (or has he?), along with his band of ex-con art forgery experts, her new, rich, ex-techie friend Chris with her snazzy wine bar, and, of course, undercover art-squad FBI agent Ted Ellesworth all will be showing up again in the next Alix London mystery, when Alix gets her first consulting assignment from the squad.



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Meet the Author

I'm a former anthropologist who has been writing mysteries and thrillers since 1982, having won an Edgar for Old Bones, as well as a subsequent Agatha (with my wife Charlotte), and a Nero Wolfe Award. My major continuing series features forensic anthropologist-detective Gideon Oliver, "the Skeleton Detective."

Lately, I've seen myself referred to as "the father of the modern forensic mystery," and, by gosh, I think I am! Before "Fellowship of Fear," the first Gideon Oliver, published in 1982, you'd have to go back 70 years and more to Austin Freeman and his Dr. Thorndyke series. Between the two good doctors (Thorndyke and Oliver), there was only Jack Klugman's "Quincy," so far as I know, and he was a TV character.

The Gideon Oliver books have been (roughly) translated into a major ABC-TV series and have been selections of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the Literary Guild, and the Readers Digest Condensed Mystery Series. My work has been published in a dozen languages. Charlotte and I live on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, our marriage having survived (more or less intact) our collaboration on novels and short stories.

Although I've been a full-time writer for some time now, I also remain active in real-life forensics by serving as the forensic anthropologist on the Olympic Peninsula Cold Case Task Force.

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