Friday, August 8, 2008

Three of a kind

As I think I've said before, I love a good mystery. For "everyday" adult reading, I usually pick up a mystery (although, it must -- of course -- be the one that I'm up to in the reading order). When I was a reading child I don't recall any other mystery options beyond the usual fare: Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, etc., so I'm glad that young readers today have so many other options. And those options now include Nancy's heiresses Kari Sundgren and Lucas Stickney (no Ned Nickerson in sight at this point), whose first case is The Mystery of the Third Lucretia. The easy summary: Chasing Vermeer for a slightly older set. Perhaps the author, Susan Runholt, was dismayed when she saw those other titles precede hers, or perhaps that's why her book got published.

Kari and Lucas (she's the one on the left) are good friends, who share a love of art. They are at the Minneapolis Institute of Art for an exhibit of Rembrandt's two paintings depicting the moments before the Roman heroine Lucretia dies from suicide (the exhibit is an actual event that the author moved up in time by a number of years) when they accidently bump a man who is copying one of the Lucretias. The man is rude and furious and the girls dub him "Gallery Guy." Several years later, they find themselves in London's National Gallery of Art, and who do they find in the Rembrandt room, copying another masterpiece? Gallery Guy. The girls are intrigued, intrigued enough to investigate further. They are convinced that Gallery Guy is creating a Rembrandt forgery, but they aren't proved right until Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum announces the discovery of a third Lucretia. The Lucretia in Washington, D.C. depicts the moment before she stabs herself, the one in Minneapolis shows her wounded, but still standing. The third, forged, painting shows her dead on her bed.

The girls (along with Kari's mother, the adult in the story) race to Amsterdam, and -- after some close calls -- reveal the painting to be a forgery. The story drags a bit to its ending (you're only halfway through when the forged painting enters the story), but it was engaging and I learned a little bit about Rembrandt and the Lucretias. The audiobook is short, and while didn't personally like the narrator's interpretation, it was a completely acceptable, professional production.

In an earlier outing, Krista Sutton, had teen girl inflections to a T; but in this book she sounded like she was talking down to us. If she was a teenage girl telling her story to other teens I'm not sure she would have sounded so deliberately wide-eyed ("I am being a teenager," her voice was saying to me.). She seemed to be straining at insouciance. She tried very hard with English- and Dutch-accented English, and she wasn't always consistent. Sutton also voiced Kari and Lucas pronouncing Dutch words with native-sounding confidence, which seemed a little off.

There were also several occasions in the text where Kari says a word -- example: "Jaguar" (British pronunciation) and then says, "it's pronounced jag-u-ar." It's very awkward to listen to, bringing you right out of the story. To me that means it's just not the best candidate for audio interpretation.

The musical intro and outgo struck just the right note of jauntiness and adventure. But the audiobook ended with "Notes to the listener" that sounded like it was read by another narrator, yet there was no introduction of this person. Could Sutton have sounded that different I just listened to it again and I believe it is another person. Who is that? The author? Tell us, please!

Since I am better at linking than incorporating images into my blog, here are links to the Minneapolis Lucretia, the D.C. Lucretia, and the London Rembrandt that Gallery Guy was copying (he used the hands in his forgery).

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