The Rembrandt Decision

The Rembrandt DecisionAt the outset of The Rembrandt Decision, by Seeley James, number 12 in his Pia Sabel mystery series, Phil Jacobsen, the murder victim, and how he died, is known. Why he was killed and by whom takes longer to unveil. Although James plays it close to his authorly vest with subtle clues, who committed the crime becomes increasingly obvious. The why of things takes most of the book to uncover.

Christine Jacobsen, one of the three narrators in this who-done-it, attempts to steamroll the investigation towards Al Devino, a relation, and also part of an organized crime family that wants to invade Deeping, Maine, a small, fictional town where everyone knows almost everyone else. Why doth she protest too much about Devino being the culprit? What further complicates the investigation is that her adopted son, Scott Jacobson, is the town’s police chief. Christine thinks Scott is still a small boy (she continues to call him Scotty) and that she can control him as well as the investigation.

Pia Sabel, of Sabel Security, is in town to investigate if Deeping is a good place to locate Sabel Research Center, a new wing of her conglomerate. Once Sabel offers to assist Scott with his investigation, Christine continually denounces Sabel’s help. Christine declares that Sabel will uncover the town’s “secrets,” even though no one else agrees or even mentions secrets. Christine originally provided the impetus for Sabel’s invitation to view the town, but once Sabel and Scott begin working together, Christine wants her to move on as quickly as possible. Why? What harm can Sabel cause the town by accelerating the pace of the investigation? Or more importantly, cause harm to whom?

Readers learn about Pia Sabel through the other two narrators: Isaiah Reddick, one of her advisors, and Scott Jacobsen, the police chief. Sabel comes across as extremely smart and observant. Very smart, Sabel seems to know something about almost everything. She can be likeable, but also an obnoxious know-it-all.

Although I enjoyed The Rembrandt Decision, it was slow moving for the first two-thirds of the story. For example, a long-winded conversation between Scott and Pia details adoption. This interaction helps Scott grow as a person/character. However, the mystery plot comes to a screeching halt. Similarly, an interaction between Scott, Isaiah and Kubari Eady (who are both Black), underscores white supremacy and how white police handle dealings with minorities. Rather heavy-handed. A third subtext involving unhoused/homeless people. The impression is that those unfortunate enough to have no place to live are either mentally ill or alcoholic, or both. These subtexts could have been treated differently and more succinctly.

The Rembrandt Decision may not be a favorite of mine, but I’ll read others in this series. I’ll also read James’s second series about Jacob Stearne.

This is a repost of a previous review.
Originally posted on 4/3/23

The Rembrandt Decision
By Seeley James
© 2022
Machined Media

Out of Time

Out of TimeIf you like mysteries with an international and luxurious undertone, Out of Time, by Cathi Stoler, is your cup of tea. Or should I say champagne? Marina DiPietro and Nick Donahue are hired to find out who wants to kill or maim Devil Wind, a Kentucky Derby hopeful owned by Adnan bin Haddad, a billionaire from Dubai. Out of Time takes the reader traveling. From New York City to Kentucky horse country to Dubai—even to the Burj Khalifa, an ultra-luxury hotel on its own island.

Donahue is a professional gambler specializing in blackjack. DiPietro, a former MI6 operative, now owns her own private investigator agency in New York City. They solve crimes together and are a couple.

Bin Haddad tells DiPietro and Donahue that he must pay a king’s ransom to protect Devil Wind. Could the trainer or one of the others who care for the horse be in league with the blackmailers? Who is attempting this coercion?

But is that the real problem? Suddenly things get dicier. Bin Haddad is told that Samira, the sister of his trainer, and the daughter of an employee at one of his other businesses, has been kidnapped by Salifi terrorists, a splinter group of ISIS. And they want more than the stated ransom money for Devil Wind. A secret device made by ABH Technologies is now demanded for the safe return of Samira.

Can DiPietro and Donahue coordinate their efforts and solve these seemingly disparate problems? Can they keep the horse and the young woman safe?

Enjoyable Read

Out of Time is an enjoyable read with likeable protagonists. Sometimes this felt like two different plotlines, but Stoler manages to pull them together at the end. Although this is billed as a Nick Donahue adventure, he seemed to take a back seat to Marina DiPietro in this book. I look forward to future additions to this series.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Out of Time
by Cathi Stoler
© 2024
Level Best Books

Nick of Time

Nick of TimeIn Nick of Time, by Cathi Soler, Marina Pietro seduces Nick Donahue, a professional gambler, who’s in Venice to hit the casinos. Who is she and why does she want Nick’s help? Does she really work at Eurotec International, a global insurance company? Or is she really something else entirely? How and why does the deal Nick strikes with Marina to capture jewel thieves go so wrong and get him kidnapped and brutalized? And what do bankers at SuisseBank Ltd. have to do with anything? Are they crooked, too?

Nigel Phillips, a friend of both Nick and Marina, slips and slides in and out of the story. He works for the British government; exactly how is not specified, but most likely in intelligence (MI6). Luckily for both Nick and Marina, Nigel can extricate them from some dicey situations. The opaqueness around Nigel tends to bring Mycroft Holmes (Sherlock’s brother) to mind.

Nick of Time is a quick and enjoyable read. I enjoyed the characters but feel that Stoler could have provided a smidgen more background to each of the main characters. Also, when Nick goes undercover to a casino in Monte Carlo to catch one of the dicey bankers, the alias he’s given is Roger Moore. Really? Maybe a bit more imaginative thought would have been in order there. But overall, a pleasant, enjoyable, fast-paced read.

I received an advance review copy for free, and this is my honest review of the book.

Nick of Time
by Cathi Stoler
© 2023
Level Best Books