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Midsummer's books: a crime story

Donna Chavez is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and the American Library Association's Booklist. She is also a freelance writer and a writing coach who has numerous publishing credits, including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Tim...

Is it a crime?

This is crime month for us at SheKnows Books. We salute crimes from art forgery and hidden priceless manuscripts to kidnapping and arson. And that's just the fiction.

Is it a crime?

As far as nonfiction is concerned it's a crime how doctors got away with refusing to correctly diagnose one journalist's family's illness, plus there's the crime of misleading a gullible public into believing faked-up "scientific" studies that support eating more of this and less of that in the interests of good health while fattening certain bank accounts. These crime books are sure to put a chill on the hottest days.

The Forgery of Venus: A Novel by Michael Gruber, fiction, 4/5:

Chaz Wilmot is a financially and emotionally starving artist with inferiority issues who's forced to be a commercial artist in order to pay his sick son's medical bills.

He knows he has greatness within him, greater, at least, than his abusive father had, but feels frustrated at every turn. So when an old college classmate offers him $150,000 to repair a Tiepolo fresco in Italy he jumps at the chance to execute serious art.

In effect he ends up completely replacing the damaged fresco, making Chaz feel like a forger. It gets worse. Because he did such a good job on the Tiepolo he's commissioned to create (or re-create) a missing Velasquez for considerably more money.

The twist (there's always a twist) is that Chaz begins to hallucinate that he really is Velasquez and in the end…well, you don't really expect me to tell you the end, do you? Suffice to say that Gruber has taken a nifty turn on the themes of art, creativity, trust and morality.

The Book of Air and Shadows: A Novel by Michael Gruber, fiction, 5/5:

Twenty-something aspiring filmmaker Albert Crosetti is just biding his time in a dead end job at a New York antique book shop until he saves enough money to go to film school and realize his lifelong dream of making movies. But when his co-worker, Carolyn Rolly, hooks him into a scheme to defraud the book store's owner and the pair discovers what appears to be evidence of a missing Shakespeare play he's drawn into a whirlwind of intrigue that rivals anything DaVinci Code author Daniel Brown ever thought up.

Is it a crime?

What's more, from plot progression to character development Gruber does a hands-down superior job. So if the number of twists, turns, blinds and double blinds in this plot don't keep you turning pages late into the night you've got to be immune to tension and conflict. Note: there are passages written in Olde English that were much easier for me to understand in audio format than if I had read them. Either way, this one is worth the effort.

Up next...Robert Fate brings the 'Baby Blues'

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