Woman On Fire

Mysterious Book Report No. 484

by John Dwaine McKenna

Stolen art and strong women are the central themes of Lisa Barr’s exciting new thriller that rockets back and forth between now and here, then and there, Europe and the U.S. of A . . . . while at the same time educating, entertaining and fascinating her readers with a thriller about the wholesale pillaging of Europe’s cultural treasures and all the stolen art looted from the Jews during World War II.

Woman On Fire, (Harper, PB, $16.99, 416 pages, ISBN 978-0-06-304088-5), begins in present day Chicago when a just-graduated journalist named Jules Roth pushes her way into a dream job working for a legendary investigative reporter named Dan Mansfield; her personal hero.  But instead of toiling away for Chicago’s largest newspaper, he asks her to join himself and a trusted aide in attempting to find the last painting by noted German Expressionist Ernst Engel, who was murdered by the Nazis in 1939.  It’s called Woman On Fire, and it’s now considered a masterpiece that’s worth millions.  Mansfield is trying to find the missing work of art on behalf of his good friend Ellis Baum, whose mother was the model for the artist.  Ellis, a world-renowned shoe designer, has been diagnosed with cancer and has only months to live.  His last wish is to recover the painting which was stolen by a high ranking Nazi during the war and hasn’t been seen since.  Complicating the hunt is an amoral woman named Margaux de Laurent, owner of the largest, most important, and secretly bankrupt, art galleries in the world—who also desires the painting for her own selfish reasons and who’ll let nothing stop her from getting it, up to, and including murder.

As the action switches back and forth between Europe and the United States, the turbulent story of the painting is revealed in the reminisces of various characters who recreate the atmosphere of wartime Germany and the ransacking of the Continent’s art treasures by the rapacious Third Reich.  The novel is well researched, well written, and a thoroughly captivating read!


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