Prather’s Pick: A new Luanne Rice novel
Luanne Rice has crafted “Last Day,” her new novel, around an art world setting which includes “Moonlight,” one of the art world’s famous paintings.
The Harkness-Woodward Gallery had always been in Beth and Kate Woodward’s family. The gallery, specializing in high-end art, had belonged to their grandmother. Then twenty-three years ago there had been a scandal associated with it. During a heist some famous paintings, including the “Moonlight,” were stolen. Teen sisters Beth and Kate were taken to the gallery basement along with their mother Helen, bound together, and gagged.
Helen choked on her gag and died, but Beth and Kate were rescued by State Trooper Conor Reid. The scandal associated with the robbery was that the girls’ own father had masterminded the whole robbery in order to fund his gambling habit. He was convicted, and as the novel begins, he is still in prison.
In the years to follow, Beth threw her life into the art world. She married Pete Lathrop and had a daughter Sam, now sixteen. Pete became president of the gallery, renamed the Lathrop Gallery. Kate never married. Her grandmother Mathilda, who served in the war, taught her to fly so now Kate is a pilot for Intrepid Aviation. She also has a role at the gallery.
Conor Reid is a detective now. Rescuing Beth and Kate all those years ago deeply affected him. He has always believed that when a person rescues people that person is responsible for them. So even though he hasn’t had direct contact with Beth and Kate, he has tried to keep an eye on the sisters. But now, as the novel begins, he has been called to Beth’s home. Kate hadn’t heard from her for three days, and she found Beth dead in her bed. She was pregnant so the baby died, too.
Conor investigates the scene. He discovers that Beth was hit on the head with a marble sculpture of an owl and then strangled. The murderer tried to make the scene appear that someone tried to rape Beth. Another thing—the “Moonlight” painting that once hung on the wall had been cut from its frame.
It doesn’t appear that Kate recognizes Conor, but she tries to help him solve the murder. Conor’s chief suspect is Beth’s husband Pete, despite the fact that he was on a boating trip at the time. He had motive, too, because Pete has a mistress and a son by her. There are other suspects, however, and Lulu and Scotty, Beth and Kate’s best friends, try to help with the murder investigation.
Then Kate discovers things she didn’t know about her sister.
As with any good mystery, there’s a twist near the end of this novel, but this book’s ending is a little different from other mysteries. The ending is gentle and very touching.
“Last Day,” published by Thomas & Mercer (2020), costs $24.95 in hardcover. You can find the novel with new books at the Craig branch of Moffat County Libraries.
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