The London Forgery
A Fabiola Bennett Mystery
Art historian Fabiola Bennett sees herself as a prudently observant deer who becomes a daring and even mischievous lioness if the situation calls for it. And that’s exactly what’s required when greedy criminals steal, forge, and tamper with treasured artwork. When the crooks add murder to their list of crimes, the chaos is complete.
A mysterious note is delivered anonymously at the door of the National Gallery in London, and the director immediately calls Fabiola’s office in Oslo and pleads with her to come without delay. The message is confusing, but it seems one of her favorite eighteenth-century portraits is in trouble.
Fabiola hops on the first plane and meets up with her vibrant side-kick Pippa Yates and the ever-loyal Detective Inspector Cary Green from New Scotland Yard. But she is not naïve enough to think untangling the purpose and meaning of the mysterious note will be as simple as a walk in Hyde Park. These things never are.
Newly married Robert and Frances Andrews, members of the landed gentry of Suffolk, England, hire young and talented Thomas Gainsborough to paint their wedding portrait. Their desire is a lovely conversation piece showing their wealth and class, an artwork to remember them by for generations to come.
Little do they know the gifted artist portrays their personalities exactly how he perceives them, and the artistic symbolism is not as flattering as they’d hoped for. Even the looming clouds in the distance promise a troublesome future.
This is the first book in a new dual timeline series by Heidi Eljarbo—an intriguing spin-off from the much-loved Soli Hansen Mysteries.
Fans of Lucinda Riley, Rhys Bowen, Kathleen McGurl, Kate Morton, and Katherine Neville will love this cozy historical art mystery, which takes the readers back to the nostalgia of the groovy seventies and the classical Georgian era of the eighteenth century.
This title is available to read on #KindleUnlimited
Universal Link: https://books2read.com/u/3LjPX1
Enjoy an Excerpt
IT WAS DARK by the time Cary dropped Fabiola off in Bayswater. She’d often stayed in this area, located next to Notting Hill and north of Hyde Park. The Victorian buildings on these streets housed apartments, bed and breakfast establishments, and smaller hotels. Mrs. Birdwhistle’s boarding house for ladies had been there since time began. Her rooms were clean, the sheets crisp, and the meals were homecooked and hearty.
A raven-haired beauty who looked like a whimsical, ingénue version of Snow White waved from the bay window of the boarding house. Before Fabiola had time to blink, her friend ran out the front door and threw her arms around Fabiola’s neck.
“Oh, you’re here. Let the fun begin! I mean, I know you have work…but I hope we’ll have some time to play.”
Fabiola returned Pippa’s hug, squeezing her long and hard. “It’s so good to be here.” Still holding onto Pippa’s arms, Fabiola took a step back. “Your dress looks like a kaleidoscope. I love it.”
“Oh, this little thing?” She threw her head back and laughed. “You know me and colors.” She stared down at the dress. “Not too much?”
“Not for you. You can be as chromatic as you like and still get away with it. And your hair… I love the short pixie cut.”
“Thanks. It’s easy to care for…easy to style.” Pippa grabbed Fabiola’s suitcase. “Here, let me carry this.”
As she followed Pippa inside, Fabiola smiled. Although they couldn’t get together all the time, when they did, it seemed as if they’d never been apart. They’d met when Fabiola came to London during her art studies. Pippa had worked in the bookshop off Piccadilly Circus, but here in the guesthouse, while enjoying Mrs. Birdwhistle’s warm hospitality for the first time, Fabiola and Pippa had found a true connection and had developed an unbreakable bond.
Fabiola stepped inside the vestibule and breathed in the atmosphere. Dark-stained wood paneling masked the walls, room keys strung on ribbons in various vivid colors hung like decorations on a nail-covered board behind the counter, and a small but bright chandelier dangled from the ceiling. Mrs. Birdwhistle, a short, silver-haired woman in her sixties, entered from a back door. She took both of Fabiola’s hands in hers.
“Hello, dear. It’s good to see you again. Pippa told me you needed a place for a few days. I only have seven rooms and some lodgers, like Pippa here, stay on.”
“How could I not stay with you, Mrs. Birdwhistle?” Pippa said with a beaming smile. She set the suitcase on the floor.
“If only every lodger could be like you, Pippa.” The older woman put a finger in the air. “But you’re in luck, Fabiola. I just had a vacancy.” The landlady went behind the desk and scribbled a few words in the registration book then gave Fabiola a gentle but firm stare. “Now, let me go over the rules. Only single women stay here. Visitors are allowed in the lounge between seven and nine in the evening. No men in the rooms upstairs. No smoking inside. No pets. And mealtimes are posted on the door to the dining room.”
“And the rooms are still paid a week in advance?” Fabiola asked as she signed the book.
Fabiola pulled a few pound notes out of her wallet and placed them on the counter.
The landlady counted the money and rang up the till. “Enjoy your stay with us,” she said cheerfully and handed Fabiola a key attached to a purple ribbon.
“Mrs. Birdwhistle’s even got a telly in the lounge now. She bought it last month…not that I’ve the time to watch it much.” Pippa picked up Fabiola’s suitcase. “Come on. I’ll take you to your room.”
“Only single women…a debatable statement when it comes to you, don’t you think?” Fabiola whispered as they climbed the stairs. “How many boyfriends have you had? I’ve lost count.”
Pippa giggled. “You’ve lost count? I just haven’t found Mr. Right. But he’s out there somewhere.” She nudged Fabiola. “How about you? Anyone new in your life?”
Fabiola rubbed the back of her neck. “I’m still not ready. I don’t know if I’ll ever be.”
“I’m sure you think about your Iver every day. You two made a perfect couple. That’s what I mean…I’m searching for a relationship like that, someone who looks at me the way your husband looked at you.”
“Oh, you’ll find someone, Pippa. I know you will.”
They entered a room with walls covered in orange, green, and white striped paper. Forest green drapes with lacy white sheers adorned the window. The bedspread matched the curtains.
Fabiola crossed to the window and looked out. “There’s a view of the small back yard. That’s nice.”
“Yes, Mrs. Birdwhistle has upgraded the space back there with a table and chairs and lights along the edges.”
“And lots of flowers.”
Pippa laughed. “Always lots of flowers. I’ve never met anyone who loves a colorful garden as much as she does. But it’s beautiful, and she’s created a lovely spot for us to sit and relax out there.”
Mrs. Birdwhistle’s boarding house had charm in abundance. Fabiola knew well she wouldn’t be spending much time there. The case of the missing Gainsborough would keep her too busy to relax in the lovely garden.
Pippa hopped on the bed and patted the cover. “Come and tell me what’s going on. I notice you’re a bit distant. Why did the National Gallery summon you to come quickly?”
Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don’t want to go near.
Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.
After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have fifteen grandchildren—so far—in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.
Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.
Heidi’s favorites are family, God’s beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.
Book Bub: https://www.bookbub.com/profile/heidi-eljarbo
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Heidi-Eljarbo/e/B073D852VG/