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The Georgian Era and Groovy 70s Combine - an Editorial Review of "The London Forgery"

Book Blurb:

1973. Art historian Fabiola Bennett sees herself as a prudently observant deer who becomes a daring and even mischievous lioness if the situation calls for it. And that’s exactly what’s required when greedy criminals steal, forge, and tamper with treasured artwork. When the crooks add murder to their list of crimes, the chaos is complete.

A mysterious note is delivered anonymously at the door of the National Gallery in London, and the director immediately calls Fabiola’s office in Oslo and pleads with her to come without delay. The message is confusing, but it seems one of her favorite eighteenth-century portraits is in trouble.

Fabiola hops on the first plane and meets up with her vibrant side-kick Pippa Yates and the ever-loyal Detective Inspector Cary Green from New Scotland Yard. But she is not naïve enough to think untangling the purpose and meaning of the mysterious note will be as simple as a walk in Hyde Park. These things never are.

1750. Newly married Robert and Frances Andrews, members of the landed gentry of Suffolk, England, hire young and talented Thomas Gainsborough to paint their wedding portrait. Their desire is a lovely conversation piece showing their wealth and class, an artwork to remember them by for generations to come.

Little do they know the gifted artist portrays their personalities exactly how he perceives them, and the artistic symbolism is not as flattering as they’d hoped for. Even the looming clouds in the distance promise a troublesome future.

This is the first book in a new dual timeline series by Heidi Eljarbo—an intriguing spin-off from the much-loved Soli Hansen Mysteries.

Fans of Lucinda Riley, Rhys Bowen, Kathleen McGurl, Kate Morton, and Katherine Neville will love this cozy historical art mystery, which takes the readers back to the nostalgia of the groovy seventies and the classical Georgian era of the eighteenth century.

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Author Bio:

Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don't want to go near.

Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter.

After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have a total of nine children, thirteen grandchildren—so far—in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier.

Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter.

Heidi’s favorites are family, God's beautiful nature, and the word whimsical.

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If you would like to know more, please visit:

Twitter: @HeidiEljarbo

Photo by Arne Fagertun

Editorial Review:

Cary raised his brows. “Why do I get the feeling I’m always three paces behind you?”

She touched his arm. “No such thing. We all collaborate. All three of us, right, Pippa?”

Pippa scooted to the edge of her seat.”

The charm of "The London Forgery" is not flashy or ostentatious; it's a quiet allure that sneaks up on readers, leaving them captivated and eager for more. At the heart of "The London Forgery" lies a brilliantly engaging dynamic between three central characters: Fabiola, Pippa, and Cary. Their interplay injects the story with a rich emotional flair, elevating what could be a straightforward mystery into an earnest exploration of friendship, trust, and collaboration. It isn’t often that one finds novels that centers around adult friendships in this way.

Fabiola, with her passion for art and her dedication to solving the mystery of the forged painting, stands as the linchpin of this dynamic trio. Eljarbo successfully endows Fabiola with a vibrant personality, seamlessly blending her intellectual prowess with a vulnerability that makes her relatable. Fabiola's dedication to her craft, coupled with her nuanced understanding of human nature makes her an easy protagonist to love. Her character is strong, vulnerable, and intelligent. Fabiola's journey is marked by grief for her lost husband, resilience, and a profound connection to the art she holds dear.

Pippa, is the vivacious and supportive friend that everyone deserves, and adds a delightful layer of warmth to the narrative. Her character injects moments of levity into the story, providing a counterbalance to the intensity of Fabiola's mission. Pippa's willingness to stand by Fabiola's side, whether in navigating the complexities of the art world or facing the dangers of their investigation. It's a friendship that transcends time and genre, anchoring the story in a relatable and heartfelt human experience.

Detective Inspector Cary Green complements Fabiola's character with an arresting charm. Cary's wit, intelligence, and the chemistry he shares with Fabiola contribute not only to the investigative dynamic but also inject a delightful humor into the story. Cary's stoicism and dedication to uncovering the truth make him an intriguing counterpart to Fabiola and Pippa’s more emotive nature and is honestly a delight to read.

Their interactions are infused with genuine care, mutual respect, and a shared sense of purpose. Whether it's Fabiola confiding in Pippa about her fears or collaborating with Cary on investigative strategies, the connections between these characters feel real and resonate with readers.

““Who could have made it past Mrs. Birdwhistle’s watchful eye? That’s what I’d like to know. That woman is a regular Argus Panoptes.”

Who? What are you talking about?”

He was an all-seeing character from Greek mythology who supposedly had a hundred eyes on his body.”

Pippa shivered. “Sounds both disgusting and exhausting. But I agree with you. “

Eljarbo has written dialogue that not only serves the narrative purpose but also breathes life into the diverse array of characters populating her novel. Its natural flow seamlessly blends with the characters' personalities and the overall tone of the story. The banter between the characters, particularly the trio of Fabiola, Pippa, and Cary, injects a wonderful sense of camaraderie and humor into the novel. These interactions not only serve to advance the plot but also offer moments of levity. The rapport between the characters feels genuine, making the dialogue a genuine pleasure to read.

The historical characters, notably Thomas Gainsborough and Margaret, are given life with a delicate touch. Eljarbo navigates the historical landscape with a keen understanding of the social and artistic nuances of the time.

Secondary characters, such as Mr. Wilson, Mrs. Everly, and the various players in the contemporary London art scene, are not mere props but essential contributors to the tapestry of the story. Each character serves a purpose, and their individual traits and backstories are seamlessly integrated into the broader story, contributing to the puzzle Fabiola seeks to unravel.

Eljarbo's command over historical details is impressive, and the language is evocative, transporting readers to the bustling streets of London and the serene landscapes that inspired Gainsborough's art. The historical sections are not just backdrops but living, breathing settings that anchor the narrative, providing a rich context for the mystery.

The author's prose is rich and atmospheric, capturing the essence of each era with a keen eye for detail. Whether describing the brushstrokes of a Gainsborough painting, or the hustle and bustle of Trafalgar Square in 1973 Eljarbo's writing exudes a quality that elevates the storytelling. Her careful attention to descriptive nuances contributes to a sensory experience, making it easy for readers to visualize and immerse themselves in the story.

Of course, if the characters are the heart, then the mystery serves as the backbone of the novel, leaving readers hooked from the first chapter to the final revelation. Heidi Eljarbo masterfully constructs a complex and multi-layered puzzle that unfolds against the charming backdrop of old London. The mystery, a carefully crafted piece of art in itself, draws readers in keeping them guessing and second-guessing at every turn.

One of the novel's strengths lies in its ability to seamlessly blend historical intrigue with contemporary detective work. The art forgery at the center of the plot acts as a bridge between two distinct time periods, creating a compelling story that unravels layer by layer. The historical chapters provide a rich context for the forgery, allowing readers to witness the creation of the painting and the circumstances surrounding it. This dual timeline not only adds depth to the mystery but also enhances the overall storytelling experience.

The author's attention to detail is evident in the careful placement of clues and revelations. Each chapter unfolds with a deliberate precision, offering morsels of information that propel the mystery forward. The inclusion of art-related details, historical nuances, and the intricacies of the forgery itself make for an incredibly engaging experience. The pacing of the mystery is another enjoyable aspect of the novel. Eljarbo maintains a perfect balance between moments of tension and quieter, introspective scenes. The gradual unraveling of the mystery allows for a thorough exploration of characters, motives, and connections, ensuring that the resolution feels earned and satisfying.

Just when one believes they have figured out the secret behind the forged painting, new layers emerge, recontextualizing the story. The author's skill in planting red herrings and expertly navigating the complexities of the art world is highly enjoyable. Also, the real historical elements and figures in the mystery add to its sense of immersion and authenticity. Her meticulous research shines through.

In essence, "The London Forgery" excels not only in presenting a compelling mystery but in doing so with finesse and creativity. Eljarbo's ability to write a story that seamlessly merges historical depth with contemporary intrigue is impressive and engaging. As readers follow the characters through the art forgery, they are treated to a mystery that is as intellectually stimulating as it is emotionally satisfying—a rare combination that makes this novel a standout in the genre.


“The London Forgery” by Heidi Eljarbo receives five stars and the “Highly Recommended” award of excellence from The Historical Fiction Company



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