4 out of 4 stars
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Jessie O’Bourne, a talented and well-respected artist, is staying at her father’s farm in Sage Bluff, Montana. She has been invited to judge an art contest in a nearby town. Her recently married dad is on his honeymoon in Hawaii, so Jessie has Jake, her orange cat, as her only companion. On an early morning sketching excursion, Jessie sees an unusual color on the ground by her dad’s haystack. Determined to see what the turquoise item could be, she finds a single shoe, then a motorcycle. Finally, with Jack’s help, she finds a young woman who is still alive but in very bad shape. This is a difficult situation, but it gets worse. The local police discover that the now-deceased young woman came to Sage Bluff to contact Jessie O’Bourne.
There are other issues that engage Jessie. Some are related to family history. There was a mysterious disappearance of paintings done by Thomas Moran, who knew Jessie’s relative, Kate O’Bourne. There are questions about Jessie’s brother, Kevin. In addition, there are drug issues serious enough that the DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) is keeping an eye on the area. There are also relationships Jessie has to deal with. One is with police officer and old family friend Russell Bonham, and one is with the FBI agent, Grant Kennedy, who is researching the lost Moran artwork.
There are a number of characters involved in this book. In addition to those who have already been mentioned, there are family members, local police officers, and several people who are important in the story line about Jessie’s relatives and Moran in the early 1900s. There are even pets that have interesting roles in the story.
A mystery with so many questions and issues, and so many people who might be involved in the answers, could be confusing to the reader, but in Death on Canvas that confusion doesn’t happen. The novel is written in the third person, which can be helpful when there is a variety of characters. There is also plenty of information that encourages the reader to try and determine what happened, and why. Personally, I came to some correct and incorrect conclusions, and it was very enjoyable to find out how I went wrong.
Author Mary Ann Cherry is a very good writer, and an interesting person herself. She is an artist in the western United States, like Jessie. Her descriptive writing includes a lot of detail, including colors. This description is in Chapter 2: “Peering through the windshield, she drew several thumbnail sketches of the scattering of new bales drying in the field, the massive stack of hay bales, and the windbreak of silver-leafed Russian olive trees silhouetted against the blushing sky.” The way her characters relate and work together is impressive and realistic. The details about Jessie’s art—how and why she does it, and how she teaches and judges other artists—is very informative. One of the things I learned is that Death on Canvas is intended to be Book 1 of the Jessie O’Bourne art mystery novels. I’m looking forward to Book 2.
Death on Canvas deserves 4 out of 4 stars. A long book that includes a lot of characters and more than a single story line sometimes can be too lengthy, and have too much detail, but that isn’t the case with Death on Canvas. It’s entertaining, enjoyable, humorous, and has a satisfying conclusion.
Death on Canvas
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