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Simpson's Homer by John Malcolm
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Simpson's Homer (2001)

by John Malcolm

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Tim Simpson may be an art historian and investment banker, but the former rugby player can hold his own against some very rough characters. That’s good, because he comes across a few unsavory types who are out to hurt him or worse.

The story begins with an odd assignment from his employer, White’s Bank, where Simpson manages the company’s Art Fund. His task is to check up on the bank’s senior officer, Sir Richard White, who appears to have gone off the deep end, faxing to the home office from the continent an off-the-wall idea for a new venture.

When Simpson locates Sir Richard in Italy, it turns out the fax was merely a ploy to get Simpson involved in helping Sir Richard unravel a scheme involving the bank’s new, high-powered director, Shauna Spring.

While in the midst of investigating corporate chicanery, Simpson learns of the accidental death of his school chum, Henry Weaver. Although Simpson considered Weaver an acquaintance, Weaver considered Tim a close enough friend to name him sole executor of his apparently meager estate.

Just before his death, Weaver had phoned Simpson to set up a meeting to view a watercolor Henry inherited from a maiden aunt, a piece he implies might be a valuable addition to the Art Fund’s portfolio. Simpson’s not so sure. After the reading of the will, it appears Simpson has inherited the watercolor – and clues lead him to believe it may be by American artist Winslow Homer, which would make it very valuable. But first, Simpson has to find it.

Throughout the story, Simpson finds himself pulled between the two investigations: find the watercolor, find out what Shauna Spring and her cronies are up to. And pretty soon, Simpson is hip-deep in suspicious deaths: two apparent accidents, a possible suicide and one no-doubt-about-it murder.

I’ve not read the earlier twelve mysteries in this series, but Simpson’s Homer easily stands alone. Tim Simpson is a strong and likable character, as is his wife Sue, a curator at the Tate Gallery. The plot is pleasantly complex and it boasts a most satisfying resolution.

Sections of the book were littered with references to events and people in British and European history and art that were unfamiliar to me, and with phrases in French and Latin that my long-ago language courses didn’t help me decode. There were also more than a few British-isms my British/American dictionary did not contain. Those were minor issues, however. The strong characters, writing and plot more than compensated. Readers more knowledgeable about history and art than I will certainly find this mystery very satisfying.

By Diana. First Published in Mystery News, April-May 2002

Review based on publisher- or author-provided review copy.
  NewsieQ | Jan 20, 2011 |
Thirteenth in the Tim Simpson art mysteries series, an enjoyable novel both exciting and informative. ( )
  tessa4pages | Mar 3, 2007 |
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With grateful thanks to David Pearcy, of National Police Training, Bramshill, for the original spark, to my old friend Mick Rooney, RA, for Torre Pellice, and to my son Sam, for he knows what.
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It was a warm September morning, misty and ripe, when I was peremptorily summoned to be told by his agitated nephew, that Sir Richard White had definitely gone off his rocker.
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"Sir Richard White appears to have gone crazy. This would not trouble his nephew, Jeremy, but for the fact that his uncle is a major director on the board of an international bank. And Jeremy is determined that Sir Richard's insanity should not jeopardize the family's millions." "So he calls in an old friend, Tim Simpson. A former rugby player and art historian, Tim is despatched to keep a watchful eye on Sir Richard and report back to the bank. The assignment takes him to the Italian countryside, where Sir Richard is busily obsessing himself with the history of an obscure Protestant sect, the Waldensians - and demanding that the bank finance their activities." "And that's just for starters. Named as an executor of a friend's estate, Tim is also gradually becoming embroiled in a mystery involving a missing painting by the distinguished American artist, Winslow Homer. As it becomes clear that Tim's art knowledge is indespensible to several different people, he finds his loyalties torn."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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