4 out of 4 stars
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Isabella’s Painting by Ellen Butler is a female-led crime thriller. Karina Cardinal is a Washington DC lobbyist who stumbles onto the fact that her future father-in-law is in possession of a stolen painting. She takes it upon herself to get the painting back to its rightful owner while attempting to also keep her future in-laws out of trouble.
Her efforts are complicated repeatedly. First, she’s troubled by an FBI investigation into the original stolen artwork. Then she has problems with her boyfriend who doesn’t know about his father possessing the painting. She’s in a position where she has to lie to many people, therefore, there’s an understory relating to her troubling relationships both with the aforementioned boyfriend and with an old FBI friend.
One of the things I really enjoyed about this book was it kept me guessing. While reading I actually attempted to list off the possible endings and I can say now none of my guesses had it right. Not knowing for sure how the story was going to turn out was very refreshing because this is a genre that has a tendency to fall back on predictable storylines.
Additionally, this novel has a lovely girl power vibe to it with one admirable woman after another. I genuinely liked Karina and wanted to cheer her on while reading. Karina and all the other women are written to be tough. These women are smart and they get stuff done. That doesn’t mean they’re unfeeling machines, though. There are moments of weakness where one of the characters falls apart, however, she’s always able to pull herself together and keep on going. Strong female lead books can be rather far and few between so this really stood out for me.
The only part about this book that bothered me is I went into it knowing the paintings from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist haven’t ever been found. It required a suspension of disbelief. I spent a lot of time hoping the painting that Karina found would be a forgery just so the storyline would tie back in with the real world. This is less a flaw with the book and a bit more a comment on how much I want to believe there’s a woman like Karina out there hunting down those priceless missing pieces of art.
Overall, Isabella’s Painting is one of the best books I’ve read recently and I rate it 4 out of 4 stars. I found the book entirely engulfing and did not want to put it down. I think it would be enjoyed by people who watched White Collar and who like girls that kick butt.
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