Chicago performance artist Rose Caffrey is desperate to sell her sister’s nineteenth-century farmhouse in southern Illinois. She’s haunted by her sister’s death from a fall inside the house.
But when Rose discovers three murals in an upstairs bedroom depicting strange images of Native Americans and bizarre nineteenthcentury landscapes, she becomes obsessed with knowing the artist’s identity and the meaning of the murals. Buried for over one hundred and seventy-five years under wallpaper and paint, the murals hint at secrets tied to the old
house, the artist, and the nearby 1836 Trail of Tears Camp Ground Cemetery. Only one mural remains to be uncovered. And Rose is convinced the hidden mural holds the key to deciphering the other three.
Once Rose and art restorer Alex Hague unravel the mystery of the last mural, they embark on a quest for one of the greatest lost art treasures of sixteenth-century America. Pursued by an unknown adversary who seems to know their every move, they race across the country hunting for the treasure. What Rose never expects to find are crimes going back over four hundred years with the potential to transform American history—if she can escape the fate of the other lost artists before her.
The Lost Artist is a fast-paced mystery thriller that shatters the very foundation of American history. Beneath the layers of time lurks a truth worth killing for.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
The beginning of this particular novel is the tale of the Trail of Tears, the forced relocation of Native American nations from the southeastern U.S. across the country. We begin with a woman who has become obsessed with that story. The reason? She has purchased an old - almost-falling-down farmhouse in rural Illinois. Professor Karen Caffrey discovered something very unique during the restoration of this old house - painted murals found under layers of wallpaper. These murals depict some very odd Native American scenes, including those of faces staring out windows and frightening blackbirds in the trees. Emily Lord Braun was the woman who owned this farmhouse back in the 1800’s. Emily had many secrets, from her time at the Wolcott Female Academy in Litchfield, Connecticut to her Illinois life, and Emily kept diaries of the twists and turns she lived through. This diary is still in existence…but a few very important pages have gone missing. When Karen has an accident, her sister Rose shows up to sell the house and tie up any loose ends that she needs to in order to put this horrible event in the past. But what she finds when she gets to Anna, Illinois scares her to death. From a Braun family member who has become an eerie stalker, to the murals, to the restorer by the name of Alex Hague who her sister had paid to uncover the murals and find out more about them…everything seems to be a mystery set upon another mystery. Although Rose originally doesn’t care about the murals or the work her sister had done before having her ‘accident,’ she soon finds herself just as obsessed with Emily Braun. The obsession grows when she learns that Emily Braun’s body is not in her marked grave at the 1836 Trail of Tears Camp Ground Cemetery. The quest for a seriously huge treasure from the 16th century is the part of the story that had me absolutely riveted. But from the word ‘go,’ readers will be very intrigued as they learn the step-by-step of how a 19th century Illinois farmhouse fits in with an historical event of mammoth proportions. The cover fits the book to a ‘tee.’ When readers look at this one on the shelves, they will be as drawn to that abandoned farmhouse as they were the Bates Motel! For the historical context and the strength of Emily Braun, this book is a mystery that I won’t soon forget. Quill Says: This book is the author's first stand-alone mystery and she does a fantastic job of writing and characterization. Previously, she has written the Leigh Girard Mystery Series. Good luck with this new addition to her accomplishments.
Rose Caffery, 33-year-old performance artist, leaves Chicago for her sister’s house in southern Illinois hoping to find out why Karen is not answering her phone. We know from the Prologue that Karen is a professor; that she has a restraining order against a man whose presence around her 1836 house is intimidating; that she has just discovered that the grave of an early female occupant of that house is empty; and that this fact “changed everything.” Rose enters the dark and crumbling house, climbs the creaky stairs, and finds her sister’s body crumpled on the floor in her library, with books scattered around her and a ladder nearby. These very different women did not have a close relationship, yet Rose perceives that conservative Karen’s purchase of the old house is the first sign that she was caught up in uncharacteristic, perhaps secret, activities. Maybe she was murdered. Answers depend on understanding why Karen hired a restoration specialist to remove 17 layers of wallpaper to uncover and study the "American primitive" murals depicting the community during the 1830s. He seems to be Rose’s ally in researching the house and its occupants. Central to the plot is The Trail of Tears. In 1838, the Cherokee people were forced to leave Georgia for Oklahoma. They were on foot, and this was their northernmost route. Lukasic serves up fascinating facts about our inglorious past while capturing our attention with threats in the present, deftly employing stormy nights, moving shadows, and both repugnant and dangerously attractive characters. As in her other mysteries, we have an extremely vulnerable female narrator and a vivid setting. The novel is satisfying emotionally, intellectually, and aesthetically.