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Reviewed by Marta Tandori for Readers' Favorite
Successful artist Jessie O’Bourne has returned home to judge a painting contest as well as to paint. She’s out early in the morning with her sassy orange tomcat, Jack, and sets about painting a landscape on her father’s property when she notices a patch of turquoise near the side of a haystack. When she goes closer to it to investigate, she’s horrified to discover a sneaker and a foot attaching to it. Both belong to an unconscious native girl lying between two haystacks. She quickly calls the police. The girl is in and out of consciousness, but is lucid enough to mutter that the police had done this to her. Jessie is shocked and becomes even more unsettled when one of the cops to arrive on the scene is none other than Sergeant Russell Bonham. Russell had been her dead brother, Kevin’s, best buddy and had once lived with them. Jessie blamed him for her brother’s suicide, and for being a no-show at her mother’s funeral, which followed in relatively quick succession after her brother’s death.
Death on Canvas by Mary Ann Cherry alternates between the present and the past – 1918 rural Montana, to be exact, where an unexpected tragedy occurs at the impoverished St. Benedict’s Mission School when the school’s teacher, Sister Mary, is murdered in the middle of the night, her murder witnessed by a young native boy. However, the murder of the good sister is only one of the mysteries that plagues the small school and haunts its descendants. There’s also the issue of several paintings that disappeared which had been painted by Thomas Moran, worth millions of dollars today.
Death on Canvas by Mary Ann Cherry is Book 1 of The Jessie O’Bourne art mysteries. A fascinating story that combines both historical intrigue and a modern-day mystery, it’s sure to be a treat for both mystery lovers as well as those readers with a passion for art. The author has crafted her characters well in that all are vividly and effectively portrayed and could easily be anyone’s next door neighbor or relative. She’s placed these characters in a setting that is both vivid and has almost a ‘grass roots’ feel to it, and then juxtaposed this with a backstory based on stolen art, a subject that has global reach. And Cherry’s effective portrayals don’t just stop at people. The territorial attitude of Jessie’s cat, Jack, and Arvid’s bruiser with slobber issues and a penchant for baloney, are also wonderfully portrayed and add the perfect touch of comic relief where needed. There’s plenty to like about Death on Canvas. It’s got intrigue, betrayal, and dirty little secrets galore. Time to put down the paint brush and get reading!