Title: The Monuments Men Murders (The Art of Murder #4)
Author: Josh Lanyon
Publisher: JustJoshin Publishing, Inc.
Release Date: June 30, 2019
Genre(s): Murder Mystery
Page Count: 199
Reviewed by: ParisDude
Heat Level: 1 flame out of 5
Rating: 4.90 stars out of 5
Someone is watching. Someone is waiting.
Despite having attracted the attention of a dangerous stalker, Special Agent Jason West is doing his best to keep his mind on his job and off his own troubles.
But his latest case implicates one of the original Monuments Men in the theft and perhaps destruction of part of the world’s cultural heritage–a lost painting by Vermeer. Naval Reserve Lieutenant Commander Emerson Harley wasn’t just a World War 2 hero, he was the grandfather Jason grew up idolizing. In fact, Grandpa Harley was a large part of what inspired Jason to join the FBI’s Art Crime Team.
Learning that his legendary grandfather might have turned a blind eye to American GIs “liberating” priceless art treasures at the end of the war is more than disturbing. It’s devastating.
Jason is determined to clear his grandfather’s name, even if that means breaking a few rules and regulations himself–putting him on a collision course with romantic partner BAU Chief Sam Kennedy.
Meanwhile, someone in the shadows is biding his time…
Well, I was convinced I had read all the previous installments of this series by bestselling author Josh Lanyon, but I realize I must have skipped book #3 (to be read asap, of course). Anyway, even though there are references to books 1-3, and even though the relationship between the two MCs can’t be properly, i.e., entirely, comprehended without that background-reading, you could probably enjoy this volume as a stand-alone novel, too. Because there’s no doubt you’ll enjoy it.
As in the other books, the story centres around Jason West, young Special Agent with the FBI’s Art Crime Team, and Sam Kennedy, the forbidding forty-something-year-old chief of the BAU (FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit), with a heavy emphasis on Jason. His latest case leads him to Bozwin, a fictional (as I suppose) town in Montana. In fact, West is investigating the lead of a Dutch art historian concerning artwork that has been stolen by the Nazis and has disappeared after WWII, right from under the noses of the world-famous Monuments Men. The officer in charge back then was no other than Jason’s grandfather Emerson Harley, and it seems accusing hints point his way. Therefore, it feels essential for Jason to clear his beloved late grandfather’s name. This personal link to the case is completely against the rules; and when you have a boyfriend who doesn’t take going against the rules lightly, things risk tumbling downhill faster than you could say ‘I love you’…
As always, Josh Lanyon doesn’t waste time with unnecessary prologues or lengthy explanations. She starts in medias res, sketching the setting with just enough strokes of her skilled quill to make you feel comfortable, and from then on, the reader is hard put to close the book. Personally, I didn’t until the end; I started reading when coming home from work, barely stopped to eat, and continued well after my normal sleeping hour. Meaning, I devoured the book in one smooth go. The first chapters seemed a tad technical as the different jurisdictions and areas of responsibility within the US-administration had to be laid out (I was somewhat reassured—we don’t hold a monopoly on complicated and nested administrative structures in Europe). The plot was however not only gripping, but outright fascinating for someone like me who’s interested in History. In perfectly sized and paced chapters, we dig into the mystery together with Jason and also get new insights into his strange relationship with his paramour, the seemingly emotionless Sam. We do get glimpses of Sam’s emotions, though, and can see very plainly how much he cares for (and even loves) his younger colleague Jason.
I can’t say I totally “get” Sam (what drives him, what he wants, etc.), but that makes him a very interesting character. There’s nothing more boring than shallow characters without edges, pleats, dark spots, odd decisions. Jason is easier to read, but his decisions don’t follow a straight path either. Both characters have that plausible real-life look-and-feel. Even their (I’m tempted to say: dysfunctional) relationship makes for an interesting background-thread from book 1 up to this one (and it will remain interesting for at least one more book as #5 is already announced for 2020). Long-distance relationships are a concept I’m not sure I “get”, either. But well, I’m your typical “clinger” (meaning I like to live together with my boyfriend and spend as much time as humanly possible with him), so I don’t think such a relationship would work for me. And I keep having my doubts as to whether they really work for others. But Josh has the skill to make Jason’s and Sam’s relationship look maybe not “wholesome” but normal and comprehensible. When all’s said and done, anyway, “The Monuments Men Murders” is another solid murder mystery created by crafty and highly talented Josh Lanyon.