Lacey Quinn is determined to prove that the striking landscapes she inherited, done by her late, much-loved grandfather, are as good as anything hanging in museums of California Impressionism today. But the paintings now in her possession are more than the works of a talented master; they are anguished voices from the grave ... crying murder!
Suddenly Lacey's investigation into the life and death of the enigmatic artist is leading her down an ever-darkening road paved with lies, blood, and devastating secrets. It also leads her to Ian Lapstrake, a security specialist employed by the appraisal house Rarities Unlimited, who has taken an interest in Lacey's inheritance ... and in her safety. Because someone wants to prevent Lacey Quinn from examining her grandfather's work too closely, by any means necessary. And clues to a series of horrific, unexplained killings may be hidden in the brushstrokes clues that have now indelibly marked Lacey and Ian for death.
About the Author
New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Lowell has more than eighty titles published to date with over twenty-four million copies of her books in print. She lives in the Sierra Nevada Mountains with her husband, with whom she writes novels under a pseudonym. Her favorite activity is exploring the Western United States to find the landscapes that speak to her soul and inspire her writing.
Date of Birth:April 5, 1944
Place of Birth:Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Education:B. A., University of California, 1966
Read an Excerpt
Die in Plain Sight LP
By Elizabeth Lowell
Harper Collins PublishersCopyright © 2003 Elizabeth Lowell All right reserved. ISBN: 0060545461
Pasadena, California January Early Tuesday morning
Lacey Quinn looked around her parents' gracefully remodeled old Pasadena home and gave herself a moment to prepare for the coming storm. Her mother and father were enjoying a sun-dappled weekend brunch in the garden room. Lacey had driven over from the coast and dropped in without warning, figuring it would be easier to tell them that way.
Now she wasn't so sure.
"Remember that art auction benefit for the Friends of Moreno County I mentioned last time I was here?" Lacey asked.
Her mother made a noise that said she was listening despite the boring subject. Although charity benefits were Dottie Quinn's meat and drink, her daughter's relentless interest in art baffled Dottie as much as it irritated her. Except at the very high end of the trade, art was indelibly messy; she preferred life well ordered and tasteful.
"What about it?" her father asked.
Part of Lacey wanted to drop the subject. The rest of her tensed for a fight. "In addition to bringing two of her paintings for a showing, Susa Donovan is going to paint a canvas onstage and then auction it off right there, with the money going to Friends of Moreno County."
Coward, sneered her inner self. You didn't driveall the way from the beach just to announce that.
Brody Quinn grunted, shuffled the legal papers he was reading, and said, "That's nice."
"Nice?" Lacey put her paint-stained hands on her equally paint-stained jeans. "Dad, even postcard-size paintings by La Susa sell for more than a quarter of a million a canvas."
"So she gets a nice write-off giving one to charity," Brody said. "So what?" "In addition to donating the painting," Lacey said through her teeth, "she has generously agreed to look at any old paintings people bring in. Sort of like Antiques Roadshow."
"Clever idea," Dottie said instantly. "Everyone is sure they have a treasure hidden away in the family junk, so there should be a huge turnout and lots of press for the event. Excellent approach. I'll put it to work for my next charity auction. I'll even use the name of your little shop, Lost Treasures Found."
Lacey managed not to wince. Her shop wasn't huge, but it kept her and her partner, Shayla Carlyle, employed and paying taxes while they scoured estate sales and craft fairs both local and distant for stock.
Figuring the conversation no longer needed to include him, Brody went back to the legal brief he was reading.
"The point is," Lacey started, when she got distracted by a lock of her curly hair springing free of the clip she used to tame the chestnut mass. "Damn!" Automatically she jammed curls back in place and reset the clip.
"If you'd just have it cut short and styled, dear, it would be easier to control," Dottie said.
"Then I'd have to do it every few weeks."
"The point is, it only costs twenty dollars a painting to have Susa look at them."
Dottie adjusted to the changed subject without a pause. "Even better. All money donated, yes?"
"Yes, and I'm going to take three paintings in for her to see," Lacey finished in a rush.
"I'm sure she'll be quite kind to you," Dottie said. "After all, she has family of her own, I believe. Didn't High Style magazine mention six children and various grandchildren?"
"Not my own paintings," Lacey said, setting her teeth. "Granddad's."
A legal brief slammed down on the patio table as Brody stood up. The family cat shot out from under Brody's chair and vanished into the lush undergrowth of the garden.
"All over again," Brody said. "From the beginning."
Lacey's chin came up. "You have a good legal mind. Do I really need to repeat it?"
"What you need to do is convince me that I shouldn't - "
"Not again, Dad. We've had this argument so many times we could speak each other's lines. For whatever reasons, you think your father's paintings aren't worth wall space. I do. I think he is - was - " She swallowed. His death two years ago was still fresh for her, still hurtful. Sometimes she still thought she saw him from the corner of her eye or across the street or turning down the aisle of the grocery store. "Grandfather was a very fine artist, equal to if not better than any of the California Plein Air Impressionists that are hanging in museums on both coasts. I believe in him. He believed in me."
"Honey, I'm sure your father - " Dottie began.
Lacey kept talking. "Without my grandfather I'd be trying to be something I'm not, a society woman instead of an artist. I don't ask you to support my choices with money or hugs. But, damn it, don't act like I need your permission, either. He left the paintings to me, not you. He died before I understood how much he meant to me. The least I can do is try to resurrect him from undeserved anonymity as an artist."
"Still dying to do David Quinn: Biography of an Unknown Artist?" Brody asked.
"I want to know where I came from. I love my family, but I don't fit in. My sisters do." She grinned wryly at her mother. "Two out of three ain't bad, right?"
"Lacey," her mother said, hugging her. "We love you."
"And I love both of you," she said, returning the hug. "But that doesn't mean we're the same kind of people. The older I get, the more like myself I get and the less like either of you. Grandpa Rainbow understood that. He understood me at a time when it meant . . . everything. Now I want the world to understand how great he really was...
Excerpted from Die in Plain Sight LP by Elizabeth Lowell
Copyright © 2003 by Elizabeth Lowell
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Table of Contents
What People are Saying About This
“This author delivers pure, undiluted excitement.”
An Interview with Elizabeth Lowell
Bestselling author Elizabeth Lowell stirs up irresistible danger, intrigue, nail-biting suspense -- and, of course, romance -- in two fast-paced thrillers, Die in Plain Sight and Running Scared. In each, a treasured object from the past provokes a dangerous cycle of greed, fear, and desire.
Die in Plain Sight features Lacey Quinn, landscape painter by choice, art buyer by necessity. When her grandfather, an unheralded artist, dies, she inherits hundreds of his works, including some haunting paintings that seem to depict a crime -- perhaps a crime that actually took place years ago. Joined by a handsome operative from Rarities Unlimited, Lacey digs deeper into her grandfather's past, only to be challenged by arson and murder.
Since both books feature the pursuit of beautiful and valuable objects, and the involvement of the exclusive firm of Rarities Unlimited, Heart to Heart took the opportunity to ask Elizabeth Lowell more about this exciting collection of books, how they got started, and where they are headed.
Heart to Heart: Die in Plain Sight and Running Scared are part of your Rarities cycle of books, which began with Moving Target. How did you get the idea for this series?
Elizabeth Lowell: I wanted to find a backdrop against which I could write several books. As I had just finished the fourth in the Donovan cycle, I was ready to write about something besides a big family. In my research into various beautiful and culturally valuable things, I came across businesses that either appraised, insured, guarded, or purchased some of the things that interested me. I thought, Why not create a company whose motto is "Buy, Sell, Appraise, Protect"? Rarities Unlimited was born in that moment. Then I had the fun of creating the people who would inhabit the world of Rarities, a world that was ripe for intrigue, danger, and suspense.
HtoH: Is this interest in antiques and collectibles a personal interest?
EL: Absolutely. I don't write books about things that bore me. Impressionist landscapes, such as those that appear in Die in Plain Sight, have always fascinated me. They have a freedom and energy that I love. That's why my husband and I collect Impressionist landscapes from living painters. (We certainly can't afford the dead ones!) Sometimes the objects I write about are rare. Sometimes they're beautiful. Sometimes, as in Running Scared, they are both. When I first saw Celtic gold objects, I was haunted by how much of the past we had lost. Then I started thinking about what people would do to own such beautiful, ancient things. After that, it wasn't long before I had a story about fear, greed, time, and murder.
HtoH: How do you research such diverse treasures as gold, California Impressionism, and rare manuscripts?
EL: Because I've always been interested in gems, artifacts, and civilizations, and I once lived in the southern California I write about in Die in Plain Sight, much of the research comes from a lifetime of reading and just plain being. I love learning new things, so once I select a specific object to be the center of a mystery, I buy books, read articles, go to museums, and search the Internet. You would be amazed at what is out there. If I need additional input, I go to experts such as C. M. Johns, to whom Running Scared is dedicated.
HtoH: Will there be more coming in the Rarities series?
EL: The book I'm working on now, The Color of Death, isn't a Rarities or Donovan book. My editor suggested that I take advantage of the creative freedom of a different backdrop, and I'm doing just that. The idea I'm playing with for the book after that doesn't share any of my previous backdrops, either. I don't know yet if the idea will gel. It's hard enough getting one book researched and written without looking two, three, or four books (and years) down the road.
HtoH: Breakneck suspense and unexpected plot turns are one of the trademarks of your books. How do you plot the pace?
EL: Short answer: I don't know. Long answer: I still don't know. Yes, I have a synopsis of sorts when I begin writing, but it's more of an overview than a true outline. I think of creating a book as finding and pushing a lot of boulders to the top of a steep hill; that's the work of setting up the characters and background facts that must go into the first 150 pages of the book. As soon as I've set that up, I give one of the boulders a big shove and run to the next one and the next and the next, until they are all bouncing and racing down the hill.
After that, it's a matter of chasing all the boulders and keeping them going until the last one stops rolling at the bottom of the hill and I write THE END. (Picture poor author panting and exhausted at the bottom of a hill, praying that no more boulders are left to chase or dodge!) Then I find a different hill, different boulders, and start the whole process all over again.