by Sarah Wisseman
Review by Mel Jacob
Five Star Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781432830687
Date: 17 June 2015 List Price $25.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Set in Sienna, Italy, Burnt Sienna by Sarah Wisseman takes the reader into the work of art restoration and the smuggling of Greek and Roman artifacts. Restorer Flora Garibaldi works for the Lorenzetti family, which began as painters dating from the Renaissance period and then moved on to restoring old masters.
The novel opens with the death of Ernst Mann, a colleague and roommate. Someone pushed him from his small balcony to the street below. Flora's other roommate, Linda Maguire, was out of town. The police question Flora--she's actually an American and Garibaldi is her Italian mother's maiden name. They have no real clues and turn to investigate Ernst's workplace and fellow employees.
The police captain's mistress is Matilde, a member of the Lorenzetti family, which presents complication for a murder investigation. Fortunately, the young police sergeant is dedicated and intelligent and enlists Flora's help to gain insight into the family and its business.
Flora snoops in the family files and is almost caught. It looks more and more as if the family is trafficking in smuggling and making forgeries of ancient artifacts. One night Flora is hit over the head and finds herself in truck heading somewhere. Does the family intend to kill her?
After Flora escapes and return to Sienna, she goes back to work. The youngest son, Marco, is a talented sculptor and discussed his work with Flora at some length. She has no idea how far the genial Lorenzettis will go to protect themselves, but she soon finds out.
A retired archeologist, Wisseman has several mystery novels to her credit. Burnt Sienna begins a new series focused on restoring, forging, and smuggling of statues, pottery, and paintings. At times, Flora's actions may strain the reader's credibility. Overall, the novel provides a pleasant mystery with hints of romance and many insights into restoration, forgery, and transportation of purloined relics. It will be interesting to see how Wisseman develops the series.