Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2009. ISBN 978-1-565-12446-2.
Reviewed by Diana Nolan
Posted on 11/13/2009
Everyone loves a mystery, especially if you just fractured your ankle and need to sit awhile. Even if you have not broken your ankle, pick up The Big Steal, by Emyl Jenkins, and grab a comfy chair. Jenkins' detective story includes all the quirky characters you would hope to find; such as, the professor, Frank Fox, or Worth Merritt, elderly, well-heeled and candid. There is a burglary, an intricate fraud, drug smuggling, and counterfeiting; all wrapped around valuable antiques, a rambling old house, a long ago love story, and a modern romance as uncertain and twisting as the roads throughout western Virginia where the crime takes place.
When the insurance firm of Babson & Michael want to know the value of antique pieces stolen from the massive Wynderly estate hidden in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, they hire appraiser and antique columnist, Sterling Glass. Sterling prides herself at being competent in her investigations, admitting, "Good appraisers are, by nature, detectives." Sterling does not disappoint, even when crawling around a dark and dusty cold attic searching for documents to provide clues to the theft; or being pursued by two men while driving mountainous, narrow roads on a black night.
Place is deftly revealed again and again in Jenkins' narrative. First, the tangible place, the baronial homes secluded in the Virginia countryside. Second, the upper crust of society, a place often secured for generations to come. Third, Sterling is in a place where directions are distorted like pretzels and cell phones are useless. The tools of cyber space are a long way off.
Jenkins has prepared a guide to popular antiques with drawings at the end of the book. In addition, she provides a question and answer clip at the beginning of each chapter regarding a particular antique that will have prominence in the chapter. If you like The Big Steal, as I did, you have only to reach for the first Sterling Glass mystery, Stealing with Style, or wait for the third.
Emyl Jenkins is a professional antiques appraiser and the author of several antique guides including Emyl Jenkins' Appraisal Book, Southern Christmas, Southern Hospitality, and Stealing With Style, the first Sterling Glass mystery. She lives in Richmond, Virginia. Visit her website.
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