Hello, I’m Laurel Beacham, and with a job title of Art Recovery Expert and head of the London office of a venerable American art foundation, I’m not one for math and science theory. I leave that kind of hocus pocus for Nico, the gorgeous geek on my team. No, I’m more an arts and humanities girl, myself. However, I must admit the old rule about every action yielding an equal—and definitely opposite—reaction held true in my latest venture into art reclamation.

In other words, no good theft goes unpunished.

I probably should add here that I only steal things that have already been stolen. To return them to the rightful owner. Which is exactly what Nico and I were doing when we made a quick trip to France on a midnight foray. Thank goodness my climbing skills didn’t fail me.

When I made it back to London, I found out . . . My, my, how the tables can turn. And turn quickly.

No, this recovery wasn’t a sanctioned job by my boss at The Beacham Foundation in New York. This kind of mission never is. The official duties of my job entail more standard skills like negotiation, research, following clues, diplomatic discussions, and trailing the kind of ephemeral information I gain through a vast network of contacts—from Vatican sources to snitches on the street, through renowned art historians to shady contacts who go by aliases instead of legal names. One must be extremely flexible about knowing who to trust in my job and when, until I can locate stolen or lost masterpieces and circuitously return them via official channels.

Yet, sometimes speed is of the essence, making another rule apply in such clandestine instances: she who waits often loses the painting for good.

“That’s your motto, eh?”

Oh, hello, Jack. Let me introduce my. . .partner. . .would you say? This is Jack Hawkes.

“I would say partner. Though the term implies we always share information, so I can’t completely believe you think of us that way, Laurel.”

Like you haven’t ever held back intel. And still don’t.

“Fine. I’ll give you points for trying, if you’ll favor me with the same.”

Sure. Is that your phone ringing or mine?

“It’s my mobile. I’ll take this outside.”

Please do.

Good, he shut the door. And before you ask, Jack doesn’t work for the foundation, but he’s now an integral part of the four-person Beacham London team—though he’s actually the only Brit.

I thought at first he was a con man working to outmaneuver me on a sanctioned art recovery job, only to find his rap sheet and aliases had been manufactured by British intelligence services. However, his cunning charm and mastery of languages means he’s at home in most every setting. He also has resources that dovetail beautifully with the requirements of my team, though we still rely heavily on Nico for all our hacking needs because it eliminates the necessity for Jack to seek any pesky search warrants. Yes, he and I share the same squishy ethics on some things.

Mostly, Jack watches my back and I reciprocate. He often annoys me when he controls need-to-know info, but because I do the same I can’t really hold that against him anymore. Well, I try not to do so. Okay, it’s a challenge, I admit it, but I’m making an effort.

One thing I’ve learned being around art is that interpretation is all in the perspective. You can’t expect to know everything about a work of art with just one glance, and the same holds true with people. The more I know about a masterpiece or a person, the more I trust my instincts about what each is telling me. Jack isn’t the only person I’ve had to change my opinion on. And with the rate of the crowd around us who are good guys turning into bad, I’m glad I have a team to back me up in day to day operations.

Oh, and that recovery job on the masterpiece in France I mentioned earlier? Well, let’s just say my world quickly rotated on its axis after Nico and I cat burgled the painting back into the mainstream. But I’ll stop here, as I don’t want to give away the game. If you want to tag along with us, pick up a copy of Fatal Forgeries. My job is never the same two days in a row, but I can promise that it’s never boring.

If you’d like to join the adventure, pick up a copy of Fatal Forgeries, recently released by Henery Press on June 6th. I’ll give one signed copy of Fatal Forgeries to one lucky poster—print or e-copy (Kindle or Nook), winner’s choice. To enter, just comment with your favorite work of art. US entries only for print, please. The giveaway ends June 17, 2017. Good luck everyone!

You can read more about Laurel in Fatal Forgeries, the fourth book in the “Bodies of Art” mystery series.

When art recovery expert Laurel Beacham’s personal and professional worlds collide, she learns no good theft goes unpunished. Incomplete intel and a missing source compel her to make a huge mistake, and she’s left with a divided team. Every retrieved masterpiece has a price–and the cost of forgeries can be deadly. This time Laurel could lose not only her best lead, but also her most trusted ally. The stakes have never been higher, forcing her and her partner, Jack, to go on the run, crisscrossing Europe to evade the criminals. Except instead of two masterminds working against them, they realize there might be three. With no time to lose, Laurel and her team must pool their resources and work to set aside their differences before they become the next fatalities.

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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.” Visit Ritter at ritterames.com

All comments are welcomed.

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