Faith's catering business has been slow with the downturn of the economy, so when her friend Patsy Avery proposes that she take over the café at Aleford's Ganley Art Museum, it seems like a not-to-be-missed opportunity. And Patsy has an ulterior motive—she discovers that the Romare Bearden piece she lent the museum has been switched with a fake and wants Faith to snoop around to find the culprit.
Life at the museum doesn't stay calm for long and Faith is soon enmeshed in the Ganley's murky past and present as she struggles to make connections among apparently disparate items: the fake Bearden, Pepperidge Farm Goldfish crackers, and a Jane Doe corpse that turns up as an unintended part of an art installation. At home, son Ben, now in the hell known as middle school, becomes involved in a cyberbullying escapade and husband Tom wants his wife to morph into June Cleaver.
Her investigation takes Faith into Boston's art scene and historic Beacon Hill, as well as into the lives behind the façade of the Ganley's very proper board of trustees. She is at her wit's—and almost dead—end, as the killer strikes again, and again.
About the Author
Katherine Hall Page is the author of twenty-three previous Faith Fairchild mysteries, the first of which received the Agatha Award for best first mystery. The Body in the Snowdrift was honored with the Agatha Award for best novel of 2006. Page also won an Agatha for her short story “The Would-Be Widower.” The recipient of the Malice Domestic Award for Lifetime Achievement, she has been nominated for the Edgar, the Mary Higgins Clark, the Maine Literary, and the Macavity Awards. She lives in Massachusetts and Maine with her husband.
Read an Excerpt
The Body in the Gallery
A Faith Fairchild Mystery
"Wait, let me get this straight. Isn't what you're suggesting called 'breaking and entering'?"
Faith Fairchild's fingers had been hovering over the plate of sticky buns her friend Patsy Avery had put out to go with the coffee they were drinking as they sat in Patsy's large kitchen on Maple Street—two blocks from Faith's house, the First Parish parsonage. Now she pulled her hand away as if the buns themselves might be larcenous.
"Entering, no breaking involved. All very legit. As president of the board of trustees I have the museum's alarm code. Trustee. Trust. We're not removing anything from the property, merely taking a look at something that's already there."
"Then why do we have to do it at night when the Ganley is closed? And why does it have to be 'we,' by the way?"
"Have a bun. You know you want one. I haven't been explaining this very well. To reiterate."
"You're sounding very lawyerly." Faith took a bun and started picking the pecans from the top. Patsy's mother sent the toothsome pastries up from Louisiana periodically, and even though Faith was a caterer, she had never been able to duplicate them. The recipe was a family secret—like the ones for jambalaya and cornbread.
"I am a lawyer."
"Just a reminder."
"Okay. When we were first married, Will and I bought a Romare Bearden. You saw it in the show that's up at the museum now."
Faith remembered it well. It was a Bearden collage from the 1960s, often considered the period when he was doing his best work. This piecewas deceptively simple—a bass player in blue set against a background of more shades of blue. The rich brown of the musician's hands and face were in sharp contrast to the soft yellows and reds of the instrument itself, which merged to become part of his body. Looking at it, you could hear the notes—mellow, vibrant, pure jazz. Feel the intensity of the player, floating through the space the artist had created—Bearden, the figure, the viewer, all one with the music.
She nodded. "It's wonderful."
"When I was asked to join the board, Will and I decided to offer it to the museum as a permanent loan. We didn't plan to take it back, but we wanted to see what kind of commitment the museum would make, and continue to make, toward broadening its horizons before we gave it outright. Loan is the operative word here, my nervous friend. It's still my Bearden."
Faith nodded again. She was with her friend so far, recalling that African-American artists were severely underrepresented at the Ganley before the Averys' gift started the ball rolling. The Ganley, to its credit, was making up for lost time. A new acquisition, an Elizabeth Catlett mother and child bronze, that was also in the show was stunning. Faith had almost wept it was so beautiful. Catlett often portrayed mothers and children, which reminded Faith why she thought Patsy had asked her to drop by.
When Patsy had called Faith to come over for coffee, that she had something important to tell her, Faith happily jumped to the conclusion that the Averys were expecting their first child. They had been trying for a long time. A good-sized house and yard for the family they were planning to start was the reason they had moved from Boston's South End to Aleford, a western suburb. Patsy and Will had both grown up in large New Orleans families, and Faith had sympathized with Patsy at the announcement of each sister's, sister-in-law's, and cousin's new arrivals, while the Averys' cradle remained empty. "The way they're poppin' them out, must be something in that Louisiana air. We need to move home," Patsy had said at one point. But Will had made partner in a prestigious firm, and Patsy loved her exhausting job as a juvenile public defender. "These babies have no problem having babies, and that's the problem," she'd mentioned to Faith often. The Averys had seen specialists and engaged in all kinds of treatments without success so far.
Yet, it wasn't news of a blessed event, but of an unexpected one. Faith had no sooner sat down than Patsy had excitedly started talking about getting into the Ganley tomorrow night to look at the Bearden collage—one she strongly suspected was not the one the Averys had loaned the museum. Now she had calmed down and was patiently explaining it all to Faith, who had quickly gotten over her initial surprise and in one part of her mind was even starting to agree with Patsy's rationalizations. The woman was the president of the board of trustees, after all.
"It was all right at the opening, although it's hard to see what's on the walls with so many ¬people milling around. That's why I went in today to take a last look by myself. I wanted to say good-bye for a while before it goes into storage. It could be a few years before it's in another exhibition. There I was, almost alone—there are never many ¬people first thing in the morning—and right away I knew it wasn't our Bearden."
"How could you tell?" Faith asked.
"It was a vibe. I'm not one of those ¬people who can spot a fake—I don't have 'the Eye'—but I've lived with this piece of art. I know it. The colors were right, the composition, everything, but something was off. Bearden's signatures were very distinctive. This one was vertical in black script so fine it looked like it was written with an etching tool—four lines, Rom, are, Bear, and den. As much of a work of art as the rest."
Faith had an art dealer friend from the years before her marriage when she had been living in her native Manhattan. Andy always said the way an artist signed a piece of art could make or break it.The Body in the Gallery
A Faith Fairchild Mystery. Copyright © by Katherine Page. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
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