abstract-aliasesGo. . .Be an art recovery expert…Attend exclusive and posh parties. . .See the world. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? And it is—at least when you can duck people tailing you, can get stolen masterpieces back without having to actually steal them again yourself, and you don’t have to attend those fancy fundraising parties with a .38 strapped to your thigh and hidden under your designer evening gown.

Those are the little things that never get into the official job description, but it’s just my average day as Laurel Beacham, premier art recovery expert.

You’d think with the Beacham last name—and the Beacham Foundation on my business cards—I’d have it pretty good. And if Grandfather was still alive this would likely be the case. Though he’d probably put the kibosh to my doing day-to-day tasks that keep my adrenalin in the red zone. But Grandfather passed away more than a dozen years ago, and my shiftless father took over and lost the foundation and the family fortune before skiing to his doom, leaving me trying to pick up the pieces of my life and deal with the fallout of Daddy’s selfish actions. I’ve done pretty well, except I’m still broke most of the time, but that’s another boring story and another lecture from my boss, Max.

My job currently pits me and my team against a master criminal, and I have to stop the art heist of the century. Piece of cake, right? Sure, if we only knew who the criminal was, or had any definitive proof of what the heist entailed, or if I could trust anyone was truly on the level and not out to manipulate circumstance to his own advantage. Well, except my right-hand geek Nico. He manipulates everything his way, but it’s always my way, too, so we’re good.

When people ask what I do for a living, I usually say I liaison with museums and do special work involving the collections. Then, invariably, the questioner will either launch into a semi-long monologue about a favorite artist or Renaissance art or the Impressionist period, or the person will say something like “oh, that’s nice” and walk away. Unless the one asking is a guy who thinks because I’m blonde, attractive and under thirty that I obviously can’t wait to hook up with him. Those guys always stay; I’m the one who says “that’s nice” and leaves.

Very few people press me about what I actually do in my chosen career—thank goodness. While the normal public sees me at the gala balls and fundraisers given to promote art and convince funders to come through with cash to help art-based nonprofit enterprises, my role in the masterpiece game is quite a bit more than looking smashing in a Givenchy gown. Remember the .38 that I might have hidden under the designer couture.

Being an art recovery expert is part acting, part mind reading, and part cat-wrangling. And it constantly changes. Recently, I used hostage negotiation techniques to retrieve a master work by a fifteenth century English painter, so I could return it to the National Gallery in London. Sometimes talking with the thief doesn’t work and I have to…well…re-appropriate the piece on my own. Through various and often stealthy methods.

Correction, not completely on my own. I have a first class team. Nico is my gorgeous Italian geek who can get into anything digital. Cassie is American, like me, and helps run the London office of Beacham Ltd. She’s a genius at art restoration and forgery spotting. And Jack Hawkes. . .Jack Hawkes. . .

Jack is a Brit who started off as a thorn in my side, but has begun growing on me more than I would have ever believed. I still don’t completely trust him, and I’m not sure what his agenda truly encompasses, but while we’re on the hunt for international art masterminds Jack is proving his mettle. His quick mind and reflexes complement my own, even if I haven’t yet learned where he got his training. That’s one of those trust issue things I mentioned. Now, if I can just handle his damned cheeky ego.

However, as this spider web of lies and deceit and murder grows tighter and tighter around us, I’m honestly glad I have someone watching my back. I may still not know as much about Jack as I want to, but I am learning to trust him a little. Given my history with men, that’s saying a lot.

In the meantime, our quarry went deep underground several months ago, but one by one they’re surfacing again. I need to get my electronic gizmos ready to track them and see what I can learn. We really need a break if we’re going to stop this heist before it’s too late.

If you’d like to tag along for the ride, pick up a copy of Abstract Aliases, released this week by Henery Press. I’ll give one signed copy of Abstract Aliases to one lucky poster. To enter, just comment with your favorite work of art. US entries only, please. The giveaway ends October 17, 2016 at 11:59 AM EST. Good luck everyone!

Abstract Aliases is the third book in the Bodies of Art mystery series, published by Henery Press, October 2016.

Abstract clues lead to new questions. New leads turn to “dead” ends. A heist plot ties to forgeries. Adversaries resurface twisting an already complicated case. And art recovery expert Laurel Beacham must not only outwit criminals, but keep her wits around Jack Hawkes’s cheeky ego.

Before the criminals they were tracking headed underground, evidence pointed toward two organizations as key to an epic art heist. Despite their best efforts, Laurel and her team haven’t caught a break in months—even Jack’s unofficial intel stuttered to a halt. But on New Year’s, as Big Ben’s bell tolls midnight, the guilty return and nowhere is safe. A source in Rome is killed within hours. Other allies are attacked in Rome and London, and a contact in Germany reports dangerous shadows closing in. The nearer the answers, the higher the stakes. Worse, Jack may not be the only one Laurel must learn to trust to avoid another brush with death.

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About the author
USA Today bestselling author Ritter Ames writes the Bodies of Art Mysteries, her way of coaxing her husband into more European travel for “research.”

All comments are welcomed.

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