Yet another brush with death
At the outset of Lind's engrossing fourth Art Lover's mystery a scream interrupts artist and faux finisher Annie Kincaid. . . . Annie's down-to-earth sense of humor and vast knowledge of art, both genuine and forged, make her an appealing heroine.Publishers Weekly (7/12/10)
Ex-art forger Annie Kincaid finds herself in danger again: sleuthing a murder at an exclusive Nob Hill men's club, scrambling through underground Chinatown tunnels in search of stolen erotic art, and scouring the trail of a bronze Greek god gone missing.
Hailey Lind's Art Lover's series has an entertaining light touch, especially when either of Annie Kincaid's two romantic partners appear. But Arsenic and Old Paint also deals with serious social issues. Lind delves into the history of slave trading in Chinatown, and its connection with San Francisco powers-that-were; and the male exploitation of the female and immigrant powerless, a social issue that continues to this day.
Annie is a strong woman protagonist. She fights back even while being mugged by professional goons. She has reinvented herself from a checkered past as an art forger, tutored by her notorious grandfather and uncle, to a legitimate businesswoman/artist. Arsenic and Old Paint contains the art lore that has added so much to Lind's other Art Lover's Mysteries: history, faking, famous thefts, and faux-finishing methods; and the book ends with a familiar feature, an Art Tip, which has become a trademark feature of the series. We meet again Annie's rainbow group of friends as she moves easily between high and low social circles. She makes the rounds of San Francisco and Bay Area locales, including tunnels beneath the pavements of Nob Hill and Chinatown, the homes and hideoutseven a downtown sex clubof the rich and famous, and the artists' studios South of Market.
A fascinating sidelight is the history of artist's green pigment (Emerald Green, Paris Green, Scheele's Green, etc.), which contained arsenic as an ingredient even as late as the 20th century. It had a brilliance unmatched by contemporary substitutes. Several Old Masters (van Gogh, Cézanne, Monet) may have suffered from arsenic poisoning. Others like Napoleon were subjected to arsine gas from mold on green wallpaper. Green has long been considered an unlucky color by dancers and actors for costume fabric dyes, as well as by members of the general public; its association with arsenic may have been the reason. Green fireworks still contain arsenic to this day.
Hailey Lind is the pseudonym of two sisters, one an artist in Oakland, California, the other a historian in Norfolk, Virginia. The former, Julie Goodson-Lawes, painted the cover image for the book, and also writes two other mystery series under the name of Juliet Blackwell. Hailey Lind's first in the Art Lover's series, Feint of Art, was nominated for an Agatha Award.