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The Lover's Portrait: An Art Mystery

The Adventures of Zelda Richardson, Volume 2
Narrated by: Carol Purdom
Length: 10 hrs and 42 mins
3.5 out of 5 stars (7 ratings)

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Summary

Missing masterpieces, Nazi blackmailers, and a pesky amateur sleuth. 

When a Dutch art dealer hides the stock from his gallery - rather than turn it over to his Nazi blackmailer - he pays with his life, leaving a treasure trove of modern masterpieces buried somewhere in Amsterdam, presumably lost forever. That is, until American art history student Zelda Richardson sticks her nose in. 

After studying for a year in the Netherlands, Zelda scores an internship at the prestigious Amsterdam Museum, where she works on an exhibition of paintings and sculptures once stolen by the Nazis, lying unclaimed in Dutch museum depots almost seventy years later. When two women claim the same portrait of a young girl entitled Irises, Zelda is tasked with investigating the painting's history and soon finds evidence that one of the two women must be lying about her past. Before she can figure out which one it is and why, Zelda learns about the Dutch art dealer's concealed collection. And that Irises is the key to finding it all. 

Her discoveries make her a target of someone willing to steal - and even kill - to find the missing paintings. As the list of suspects grows, Zelda realizes she has to track down the lost collection and unmask a killer if she wants to survive. 

  • Chill with a Book's January 2018 Book of the Month 
  • One of TripFiction’s 10 Favorite Books set in Amsterdam 
  • One of The Displaced Nation's Top 36 Expat Fiction Picks of 2016 
  • Number 14 in the BookLife Prize for Fiction 2016, Mystery category 
  • Silver Cup Winner of Rosie's Book Review Team Awards 2017 in the Mystery category 

The Lover’s Portrait is the perfect novel for those who love art, history, and mystery. The Adventures of Zelda Richardson series are stand-alone novels and can be listened to in any order.  

©2016 Jennifer S. Alderson (P)2017 Jennifer S. Alderson

What listeners say about The Lover's Portrait: An Art Mystery

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Gripping and entertaining.

Very good entertaining story. The whole process was interesting and I was glad of how it turned out.

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Art History Mystery

The Lover's Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson brought together many great elements. I loved the art, the history, the twists and turns, the setting of Amsterdam, the vivid imagery, and some of the characters. The author is fantastic meshing fact with fiction. I learned things about World War II that I never imagined. This book has many realistic things about it, along with thought provoking insights. In an over-simplification, the story melds past with present, murder and a treasure hunt. I was drawn to the character of Zelda Richardson. Carol Purdom was perfect bringing the characters to life. She gives them distinguishable voices, and lets one hear exactly whom is speaking. History and Mystery are two genres I really enjoy, and I've listened to Ritual's of The Dead by this author, so I was automatically intrigued by the book. I requested this review copy audiobook and have voluntarily written this review. I will most definitely listen to more books by both the author and narrator.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Fun but could use some polishing

Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works fine as a stand alone novel.

I love a good art mystery, where the main character has to dig into the history of an art piece and try to figure out motivations of potential owners. Zelda Richardson has the passion for the job. She was bored sick of her office computer job in Big City, USA and ran off to the Netherlands to study art, working on her master’s degree. I really wanted to like Zelda and eventually I came to care about her in the way I would care about a young niece. She has the appreciation for Dutch art and the dedication to research but she’s not the sharpest pencil in the pack. The clues to the mystery were well laid out and Zelda sometimes took forever to put them together.

Because of that, this cozy murder mystery read more like a kid’s mystery novel. So maybe it’s not so much Zelda but rather how the mystery itself unfolded. I really felt that Zelda acted younger than a woman in her late 20s or early 30s and her slowness in piecing together the clues really added to this. Once I cheated and adjusted Zelda’s age to 15, I liked her more and I enjoyed the tale more.

Most of the story is set in Amsterdam and there were a few scenes sprinkled throughout the story that do well in reminding us of the setting. However, for most of the book, the tale could be set almost anywhere. A few Dutch touches here and there would have added to the atmosphere.

There are two women who claim rightful ownership of a newly recovered portrait called Irises. Rita Brower hails from Missouri (I think) and is friendly. She lived in Amsterdam as a kid and has many fond memories of the place. Karen O’Neil comes in hitting heavy with a pushy attorney, threatening to go to the press with her sob story. I liked that it wasn’t immediately clear which woman had the best case of ownership though Zelda had a clear liking for Rita while her co-worker Huub Konjin clearly favored Karen with all her legal documentation. Her boss Bernice remained professional throughout the entire mess, requiring her employees to look into both cases diligently.

The research pulls in Nazi occupation of the Netherlands during WWII and their persecution of homosexuals. I felt Zelda had a very simple take on this: if character X was a homosexual, there’s no way character X could have children. That’s just silly. Plenty of homosexuals and bisexuals have had kids. This argument of Zelda’s was a very weak one but a lot of emphasis was placed on it, making it a weak point in the plot.

Later on, Zelda talks her friend Friedrich into helping her spy on one of the claimants. However, she’s then dumb enough to play this illegal recording for her boss and Huub. Obviously, that doesn’t go well and I was sure Zelda would face charges. Zelda was completely surprised at how things went and I felt this added to the overall feeling that Zelda was more a 15 year old than a 25 year old.

As the story winds up for the big finale, which was easy to predict well before we got there, I was rooting for Zelda. She may be a bit dense but I didn’t want her dead and I did want her to find the big stash of lost art. Since things had been so cozy and rather PG, I wasn’t worried for Zelda’s safety even when she was held at gun point. I did wonder about that one scene where the Bad Guy has to hold her at gun point and pick a lock at the same time….. hmmm…. it usually takes 2 hands to pick a lock. Zelda didn’t take advantage of that moment but she comes up swinging later once she’s worked out that she’s dead if she doesn’t do something.

Over all, it was a fun cozy listen with good pacing. 3.5/5 stars.

The Narration: Carol Purdom has a very pleasant voice to listen to. She makes a decent Zelda and a really great Rita (Missouri accent). She does well as the slightly outraged Karen too. I was expecting the Dutch characters to have Dutch accents, but they didn’t. They usually sounded a bit formal or stilted but not with Dutch accents. There’s a few lines of German here and there and Perdom’s German pronunciation needs some polishing. She was really good with the emotions, especially Zelda’s. 3.5/5 stars.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Jennifer S. Alderson. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

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Art & Intrigue

An excellent story with only a few minor reservations over the narration. Lost art, nazis and desperate people - all make for a great story full of history and art in context.

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Gripping art mystery

This has all the ingredients of a great mystery story: plucky heroine, machiavellian villains, interesting background, and lost of twists and turns culminating in a gripping finale.
The narration is good, with the narrator managing to take on the voices of the different characters and inject emotions of excitement, fear, frustration and anxiety into her reading.
Recommended for fans of mysteries especially those with an interest in art.

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  • cosmitron
  • 22-04-18

Loving Art through good times and bad.

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

Yes....... its combination of Art,History,Mystery and a good thriller make it a compelling
book.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Zelda is growing and learning about Art the great suffering of being Jewish during
World War 2 and becoming more of the person she soon will become.

Which scene was your favorite?

N/A

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

History can come home to haunt you.

Any additional comments?

This book was given to me for free at my request and I provided this voluntary review.

12 people found this helpful

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  • Loves2Read
  • 19-11-19

Historical Mystery of WWII Era Missing Art

Alderson has done an excellent job putting together a captivating mystery involving a search for missing art from Nazi occupied WWII era Amsterdam. The story slides back and forth between current day and the 1940's to explain events as they happened, giving back story and laying out clues. I like that in a story when it's done well - and it is here. Ms. Alderson uses Amsterdam as her backdrop and Art History as part of the primary subject matter in the book, both topics on which she is well versed. She has a compelling narrative and a likeable heroine. Historical novels are my go to genre and I love a good mystery too so this was right up my alley. I will have to say that the narration by Ms Purdom of Rita Brouwer and Karen O Neil - 2 women who were supposed to be of mature years and left the Netherlands when they were small girls - were narrated with horrible twangy American accents. It was incredibly annoying. Accents aside, the book was a good listen and worth your time. I very much enjoyed it. *I was given a review copy in return for my honest review*

2 people found this helpful

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  • Jan
  • 11-02-20

Fantastic!

international-crime-and-mystery, cultural-exploration, world-war-2, art, art-theft, historical-places-events, historical-research, netherlands, mystery, thriller, amateur-sleuth, intrigue, greed, fraud

The nazis weren't the only art thieves in the twentieth century, and this excellent mystery gives a nod to the fact that covert theft continues to this day. In an attempt to return stolen artwork to rightful owners, the museum has launched an internet presence. This brings in the good, the bad, and the ugly. Unknown to the museum board, one of their employees is as dishonest as can be and stops at nothing to achieve his own personal agenda. Zelda is only an unpaid intern but she becomes enmeshed in discovering the charade on behalf of a legitimate claimant. Excellent suspense and engaging characters.
Carol Purdom performs the narration beautifully and gives voice to all the characters by enhancing their personalities
I won this free audiobook in a Giveaway!

1 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 24-01-20

Good Historical Mystery

I received a free copy of this book upon my request and the following review is unbiased.

The narrator did a good job overall, however the cracking southern accent grated on my nerves at times.

I loved the story, setting, and history, but the cliches and unnecessary dialogue tags with adverbs made me want to scream “why?” A good editor would have raised the quality of the writing to this otherwise great story idea.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Judith Coulson
  • 22-04-19

The main actor seems to be un-naturally stupid

The story in general would be interesting but the main actor seems to be un-naturally stupid, acting against any normal human behavior, and hard in comprehending simple connections what makes it hard to listen to.

1 person found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Amazon Customer
  • 04-04-20

Performance

The poor imitation of a southern
accent for Rita was so off putting that it was impossible to feel sympathetic to the character.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Ash
  • 29-01-20

Great Historical Trip

The second in the Zelda Richardson series, though the novels can be read as standalones, The Lover's Portrait is a fascinating combination of mystery, romance, and historical fiction. Seventy five years after the outbreak of World War II many art and other cultural artifacts from the areas the Nazis inhabited are still missing.

When Zelda is tasked with helping a museum in Amsterdam with their forgotten artwork exhibit she is drawn into a mystery surrounding one of the paintings. The painting is not one of great value, but can it lead to a cache of other missing artwork? I really enjoyed the historical elements of this novel and the modern day characters reaction to these. The twists and turns of these historical influences wee very interesting and kept me on the edge of my seat.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Susan Patterson
  • 23-01-20

History and fiction meld!

Twists and turns keep your attention as the mystery unravels of lost art & loves.

Carol Purdom does a good job narrating.

I was given this free review copy audiobook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Joni J Mielke
  • 28-12-19

Great story, good narration, disliked the accent

I really enjoyed how the dual storylines of this novel intertwined, bringing 21st century relevance to second world war people and events.

I felt that the characterisation in this book was excellent. The main character is likeable and relatable. She's intelligent but she makes mistakes. Confident, yet battle with feelings of self-doubt and insecurity. In short, she's as real as they come. Every character is real, and they're all complex - some more so, some less. All of them are so very human that you half expect them to walk off the page and into your space.

Mg only complaint concerns the narrator's accent. I don't think that a American Southern accent was suitable for a book that is set in the Netherlands and which mostly features Dutch characters. An accentless voice, with correct pronunciation for all names, would have been preferable to my ear, although this narrator's cadence and tone was pleasant to listen to.

Altogether a very good audiobook, degraded slightly by the narrator's accent.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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  • ItTakesaVillage
  • 18-12-19

Cringeworthy

I was so looking forward to a good mystery about art and art history. Sorry to say that this book was a real disappointment. The writing was sophomoric, full of tired cliches and noticeably unsuitable word choices--as if the author used a thesaurus for every other adjective or adverb, and published without benefit of editorial guidance. Even worse was the narration. Ms. Purdom's voiced characters sounded absurd, which was puzzling as her reading of the non-conversational portions was quite pleasant and balanced.

Art history offers such a rich array of stories. This one was a great opportunity wasted.