I select titles for review because I think a given book sounds like something I might enjoy. So it was with The Forger. I love romantic suspense and the idea of a suspense novel set in the world of art galleries caught my fancy. Of course, I then had to read the book, which unfortunately ended up being quite a chore indeed.
Olivia Lawson has a dream job working as a constable in the Art and Antiquities Unit at Scotland Yard. Unfortunately, art crimes aren’t top priority at Scotland Yard, so her unit is constantly in danger of being shut down. This, combined with Olivia’s past history, drive her to prove herself at every opportunity. Olivia once worked for a private art gallery but lost her job after making some questionable decisions that cost the gallery a lot of money. Art buyers who make costly mistakes must be naturals for investigating theft and forgery, so naturally Olivia managed to land in the Art and Antiquities Unit.
Olivia sees a chance to earn some credibility and job security when she lands a case at the famous Tate Gallery(the name of which the author does not always give correctly, by the way.) She arrives on the scene to discover that someone has defaced a famous pre-Raphaelite work by affixing a crude copy to the front of it. Too late, Olivia learns that the copy is booby-trapped with explosives. She is saved from being blown off her feet by the extraordinarily well-timed arrival of Ethan Maxwell from Interpol.
A member of Interpol’s Elite Crimes Unit, Ethan is brought in to work on the investigation with Olivia. Olivia chafes at having to deal with a rival whom she suspects will undermine her credibility but she is given no choice in the matter. Far from being swept off their feet, Olivia and Ethan enter into a giant bickering match at first sight which is far more tiresome than romantic. Add into that the half-hearted and sometimes inconsistent characterizations and you’ve got a recipe for a clunker of a read. Olivia can’t decide whether she wants to appear professional and the author makes half-hearted attempts to paint Ethan as a sexist who somehow has a very rapid change of heart. Oh my.
Eventually, Olivia and Ethan win each other over but their romance never truly feels convincing. Given Olivia’s love of art and Ethan’s checkered past in the world of art forgery, the conflict between these two would have been natural enough. However, the author instead forces them to work through additional (and completely unbelievable) conflicts arising from the convenient coincidences piled into the story. The art forgery plot is a bit over the top as it is, but all the coincidental background facts make it more than a tad ridiculous. It eventually reached a point where the characters have yet another stunning revelation of treachery and all I could do was laugh helplessly.
Speaking of which, the suspense plot in this book just isn’t all that suspenseful. At first, I did want to figure out why someone would be booby-trapping famous works of art. However, as the story develops, the motive which began to emerge felt incredibly far-fetched. And just when I thought we had strained all credibility to the limit, it kept on going. I don’t want to give too much away with spoilers, but it’s probably fair to say that anyone who likes their police work to feel at least vaguely realistic will probably be disappointed here. Folks who want their suspense to be suspenseful likely won’t be happy campers either.
While I found the writing in this book rather uninspired for the most part, I did enjoy Olivia and Ethan’s discussions of the art world. Most of the novel was a slog to get through and a lot of the dialogue was thoroughly unbelievable, but I did pick up all kinds of interesting tidbits about the art business, the prevalence of forgeries and the like. If the romance was as inspired as the background material, this book would have been so much better.