Former Budapest cop Attila Feher would really like to see art expert Helena Marsh again, so he arranges a contract for her to determine whether a painting is a copy of a famous Artemisia Gentileschi canvas or the real thing. A simple appraisal becomes a dangerous assignment when usual eastern European gangsters show up and people start dying and the seething corruption that underlies the lost promise of post-Soviet Hungary swirls to the surface. In a race to get to the truth and to outwit her adversaries, Helena and Attila must solve the mystery of the painting’s origins.
Richly atmospheric, set in Strasbourg, Budapest, and Paris, this witty, sophisticated novel will satisfy readers of political thrillers by Alan Furst and Philip Kerr. Deceptions is a thinking-person’s thriller, a romp to the last satisfying page.
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She sensed him before she saw him. The smell of wet wool and cigarettes. He approached cautiously on rubber soles, a little breathless, as he entered the salon and stopped a foot or so inside the door. She slipped the thin long-bladed knife from her sleeve, stretched her fingers over the handle and waited a moment – it was, she knew, a crucial moment because sometimes a moment would be too long – but this was Paris, not Moscow, not Bratislava and she was not working on a dangerous case. She glanced up at the large, burly figure. “Helena,” he said with a note of anxiety in his voice. The pedicurist, massaging Helena’s instep, may not have seen the knife, but he had. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
“Do I seem scared?” she asked.
“No,” he said, “Do I?”
She noted his badly shaven face, his pale eyes still fixed on her sleeve, his burgeoning belly stretching the grey woolen sweater over his corduroy pants. “Put on a little weight,” she said with a smile.
“All that rakott krumpli,” he said, “but I will lose it on delicate French food and wine.” He spoke English with a soft Hungarian accent, pressure on the endings, but a great deal better than the last time she saw him. Must have been taking lessons. A pity, she thought. She had liked his accent first, even before she began to like him.