The Lover's Portrait
Zelda Richardson Mystery Series Book 1
by Jennifer S. Alderson
Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Suspense
A portrait holds the key to recovering a cache of looted artwork, secreted away during World War II, in this captivating historical art thriller set in the 1940s and present-day Amsterdam.
When a Dutch art dealer hides the stock from his gallery – rather than turn it over to his Nazi blackmailer – he pays with his life, leaving a treasure trove of modern masterpieces buried somewhere in Amsterdam, presumably lost forever. That is, until American art history student Zelda Richardson sticks her nose in.
After studying for a year in the Netherlands, Zelda scores an internship at the prestigious Amsterdam Museum, where she works on an exhibition of paintings and sculptures once stolen by the Nazis, lying unclaimed in Dutch museum depots almost seventy years later.
When two women claim the same portrait of a young girl entitled Irises, Zelda is tasked with investigating the painting’s history and soon finds evidence that one of the two women must be lying about her past. Before she can figure out which one and why, Zelda learns about the Dutch art dealer’s concealed collection. And that Irises is the key to finding it.
Her discoveries make her a target of someone willing to steal – and even kill – to find the missing paintings. As the list of suspects grows, Zelda realizes she has to track down the lost collection and unmask a killer if she wants to survive.
Awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion by indieBRAG's readers in March 2019
Chosen as Chill with a Book’s January 2018 Book of the Month and winner of a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award
One of TripFiction's 10 Favorite Books set in Amsterdam
Silver Cup winner in Rosie's Book Review Team 2017 Awards, Mystery category
Readers’ Favorite 5 star medal
One of The Displaced Nation magazine’s Top 36 Expat Fiction Picks of 2016
One of Women Writers, Women’s Books magazine's Recommended Reads for April 2017.
Set in present day and wartime Amsterdam, this captivating thriller is not just about stolen paintings, but also the lives that were stolen. This art history mystery also describes the plight of homosexuals and Jewish artists in Europe during World War II, as well as the complexities inherent to the restitution of artwork stolen by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s.
The Lover's Portrait is Book One in the Zelda Richardson Mystery Series. The amateur sleuth mysteries in this series can be read in any order.
Rituals of the Dead
Zelda Richardson Mystery Series Book 2
A museum researcher must solve a decades-old murder before she becomes the killer’s next victim in this riveting dual timeline thriller set in Papua and the Netherlands.
Agats, Dutch New Guinea (Papua), 1961: While collecting Asmat artifacts for a New York museum, American anthropologist Nick Mayfield stumbles upon a smuggling ring organized by high-ranking members of the Dutch colonial government and the Catholic Church. Before he can alert the authorities, he vanishes in a mangrove swamp, never to be seen again.
Amsterdam, the Netherlands, 2018: While preparing for an exhibition of Asmat artifacts in a Dutch ethnographic museum, researcher Zelda Richardson finds Nick Mayfield’s journal in a long-forgotten crate. Before Zelda can finish reading the journal, her housemate is brutally murdered and ‘Give back what is not yours’ is scrawled on their living room wall.
Someone wants ancient history to stay that way—and believes murder is the surest way to keep the past buried.
Can she solve a sixty-year-old mystery before decades of deceit, greed, and retribution cost Zelda her life?
Awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion by indieBRAG's readers in December 2018
One of Amy's Bookshelf Reviews' Top 20 Books of 2018
Winner of a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award, June 2018
A Women Writers, Women’s Books magazine’s Recommended Reads for March 2018
New Apple’s 2018 Summer Book Awards, Official Selection Mystery/Thriller category
BookLife Prize for Fiction 2018, Mystery/Thriller category, rating 8.50
Art, religion and history collide in this edge-of-your-seat museum thriller, Book Two of the Zelda Richardson Mystery Series. The novels in this series can be read in any order.
Marked For Revenge
Zelda Richardson Mystery Series Book 3
An exhilarating adventure set in the Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, Luxembourg, and Turkey about stolen art, the mafia, and a father’s vengeance.
When researcher Zelda Richardson begins working at a local museum, she doesn’t expect to get entangled with an art theft, knocked unconscious by a forger, threatened by the mob, or stalked by drug dealers.
To make matters worse, a Croatian gangster is convinced Zelda knows where a cache of recently pilfered paintings is. She must track down an international gang of art thieves and recover the stolen artwork in order to save those she loves most.
The trouble is, Zelda doesn’t know where to look. Teaming up with art detective Vincent de Graaf may be her only hope at salvation.
The trail of clues leads Zelda and Vincent on a pulse-pounding race across Europe to a dramatic showdown in Turkey that may cost them their lives.
Awarded a Chill with a Book Readers' Award in June 2019
A Women Writers, Women's Books magazine Recommended Reads in June 2019
One of Amy's Bookshelf Reviews Top 20 Reads of 2019
Placed at #30 in ReadFreely's Top 50 Indie Reads of 2019
Chosen as Chill with a Book's June 2019 Cover of the Month
Marked for Revenge is the third book in the Zelda Richardson Mystery Series. The novels in this series can be read in any order.
The Vermeer Deception
Zelda Richardson Mystery Series Book 4
An art historian finds – then loses – a portrait by Johannes Vermeer in this thrilling art mystery set in Munich, Heidelberg, and Amsterdam.
When Zelda Richardson investigates a new lead about a missing portrait by Johannes Vermeer, no one expects her to actually find the painting in a retired art dealer’s home in Munich, Germany. Not her parents visiting from America; her boss, private detective Vincent de Graaf; or the rightful owner of the Nazi-looted artwork.
However, Zelda’s jubilation turns to horror when she arrives to pick up the portrait and finds the art dealer dead and several frames smoldering in his fireplace.
Was the Vermeer a fake and its ‘discovery’ a cruel joke played on a Nazi victim? The Munich police, Zelda’s family, and Vincent certainly think so.
Yet the art dealer’s best friend believes he was murdered and the real Vermeer stolen by an underground network of art looters, one established during World War II and still active today. The problem is, no one believes him – except Zelda.
Zelda soon finds herself in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with immoral art collectors, corrupt dealers, and an all-to-real killer who wants her to stop searching.
Can Zelda uncover the truth about the Vermeer before she is painted out of the picture permanently?
The Vermeer Deception is Book 4 in the Zelda Richardson Mystery Series. The novels in this series can be read in any order.
**On Sale for only $2.99!**
Hi! I am an American expat currently living in Amsterdam. After traveling extensively around Asia, Oceania, and Central America, I moved to Darwin, Australia, before finally settling in the Netherlands. When not writing, you can find me in a museum, biking around Amsterdam, or enjoying a coffee along the canal while planning my next research trip.
My love of travel, art, and culture inspires my award-winning Zelda Richardson Mystery series, Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mysteries, and standalone stories.
The Lover’s Portrait (Book One) is a suspenseful whodunit about Nazi-looted artwork that transports readers to WWII and present-day Amsterdam. Art, religion, and anthropology collide in Rituals of the Dead (Book Two), a thrilling artifact mystery set in Papua New Guinea and the Netherlands. My pulse-pounding adventure set in the Netherlands, Croatia, Italy, and Turkey— Marked for Revenge (Book Three)—is a story about stolen art, the mafia, and a father’s vengeance.
The Travel Can Be Murder Cozy Mysteries are a funny new series featuring tour guide and amateur sleuth, Lana Hansen. Join Lana as she leads tourists and readers to fascinating cities around the globe on intriguing adventures that, unfortunately for Lana, often turn deadly. Book One— Death on the Danube —takes Lana to Budapest for a New Year’s trip. Can Lana figure out who murdered her fellow tour guide before she too ends up floating in the Danube? Death by Baguette: A Valentine's Day Murder in Paris (Books Two) will be released in February 2020, and Book 3 in May 2020.
I am also the author of Down and Out in Kathmandu , Holiday Gone Wrong , and Notes of a Naive Traveler .
Connect with me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or my website.
I have also started a group for readers and writers of travel fiction and non-fiction - Travel By Book. We are a promotion and discussion group active on Facebook with a growing presence here on Goodreads.
Thanks for stopping by!
Art Crimes as Inspiration for a Thriller - Marked for Revenge
By Jennifer S. Alderson
When you think about art crimes, I bet the image that pops into your head is of a suave, refined thief in a tuxedo slipping in and out of a well-guarded museum without being detected. In many ways, art crimes are glorified in films and television shows. Classics such as The Thomas Crown Affair, the Ocean Eleven series, and Entrapment, as well as new shows on subscriber channels such as NetFlix and Videoland, portray art thieves as sophisticated gentleman robbers who are more interested in outsmarting the police and museum security than keeping the artwork for themselves. These representations are worlds away from the real-life criminal masterminds behind most art thefts. These aren’t art lovers or smooth criminals, but members of underworld organizations who couldn’t care less about the artist’s skills, painting technique, or importance to art history. According to Interpol, the majority of paintings and sculptures stolen from private homes and museums in Western Europe make their way to Eastern Europe, where they are further handled. These pieces are resold to louche dealers who sell it on to unsuspecting clients, are sometimes forged and resold as two originals, or used as a down payment for a drugs or arms deal. Ironically, the skyrocketing value of modern art in the 1990s is to blame. When record-breaking auction sales of Picassos, Van Goghs, Monets, Warhols, and the like began making international news, criminal organizations took note. Quite soon the same kinds of paintings earning millions at auction were being stolen from European and American museums. As a mystery author passionate about art history, using this connection between the Eastern European criminal underworld and Western art museums as the basis for my latest novel, Marked for Revenge, was an obvious choice. While writing this thriller about forgeries, museum thefts, and organized crime, I didn’t have trouble finding real world examples from which to draw inspiration for my characters. When searching for underworld organizations specializing in art crimes, I discovered several known gangs existed. Scary gangs with silly names such as Group Amerika and Arkan’s Tigers topped my newspaper and internet searches. One stood out among the rest – a gang Interpol has dubbed the ‘Balkan Bandits’ and ‘Pink Panthers’. Why two names? The first is because Interpol suspects most of the criminals in this network are based out of Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia and Hertzegotava. The group earned the second name after they successfully executed a robbery they copied from a Pink Panther film. Interpol suspects this ring of jewel, art and antiquities thieves of committing more than two-hundred audacious crimes during which they stole around four-hundred million euros worth of jewels, antiques, and artwork from private homes, museums, galleries, and monuments spread across Europe. And when I say audacious, I mean it. Think speed boats, hang gliders, helicopters, rappelling, and the like. Interpol believes Pink Panther’s network consists of twenty to thirty experienced thieves, with facilitators in various cities providing logistical assistance. Other sources estimate there are up to two-hundred and fifty members active in this criminal organization. Who exactly these criminals work for – and whether the Balkan Bandits is really one or several of the crime families based in the Balkans – is still a mystery. This group provided the perfect example of how Robber Hood, my fictional gang of art thieves, would operate. As long as artwork fetches millions, art crimes will be big business. As an art lover, I am saddened by this situation. As a mystery author, these kinds of thefts provide endless inspiration for future, art-related mysteries.
"Art-related, Dutch goodies" prize package, includes:
- Playmobil toy of Vermeer's The Milkmaid (from the Rijksmuseum)
- A notebook featuring Vermeer's The Milkmaid on the cover
- A tulip pen
- A fabric bag from a local Amsterdam cafe
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