Table of Contents
The Lost Madonna
“Jones’s vivid descriptions of Florence, and the involving story, will captivate art and fiction lovers.”
“Beautiful and thought provoking . . . Kelly Jones has a new fan in me.
The Lost Madonna
has a little something for everyone, so do yourself a favor and go out and grab your copy.”
Romance Reader at Heart
“For readers searching for something a little different, a setting that’s beautiful as well as novel, a love that’s touching in addition to being sensual, this ought to be a book they consider.”
“A spectacular novel! With lyrical writing and lush descriptions of Italy, its artwork, and European culture, the novel is filled with symbolism and passion. Try not to miss this one.”
The Romance Readers Connection
“An electrifying tale of suspense filled with twists.
The Lost Madonna
is a one-sitting novel.”
Midwest Book Review
The Seventh Unicorn
“One of those rare reading experiences . . . It explores the human condition in a way that few novels do. Page-turning and insightful . . . Kelly Jones is a wonderful writer, and definitely one to watch.”
continued . . .
“[An] absorbing, thoroughly satisfying debut.”
“Fans of . . .
Girl with a Pearl Earring
will love Jones’s wellimagined romantic saga.”
“Haunting and breathtaking . . . rich in history and detail.”
The Best Reviews
“A must-read for fans of history, mystery, and art.”
The Romance Readers Connection
“Remarkable . . . fascinating . . . intriguing . . . a superb modern-day romance.”
Midwest Book Review
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2011 by Kelly Jones.
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Berkley trade paperback edition / October 2011
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Jones, Kelly, 1948–
The woman who heard color / Kelly Jones.—Berkley trade paperback ed. p. cm.
ISBN : 978-1-101-54514-0
1. Art thefts—Investigation—Fiction. 2. Mothers and daughters—Fiction. I. Title. PS3610.O6264W’.6—dc23
Lauren and Isabella
New York City
As Lauren O’Farrell hurried up from the subway on her way to visit Isabella Fletcher, she knew the moisture under her blouse, along her collar, and spotting her chest was as much the result of nerves as the heat that had invaded the city for the past several days. She had never done anything like this before. At times she had gathered information through slightly deceptive means, but she’d never lied in an attempt to find her way into someone’s home. She reasoned that it was highly unlikely, if not impossible, that Mrs. Fletcher would have agreed to open her door to the accusation that her mother was a Nazi collaborator, a woman who had assisted Hitler in purging the state galleries of what he had dubbed
, then stood by as paintings, prints, and drawings considered unimportant were destroyed, while the more valuable pieces were moved about as political pawns in a game clearly headed toward war and the final solution. A woman who had possibly lined her own pockets with funds obtained from “disposing” of art, and who had most likely kept a painting or two for her own collection.
Mrs. Fletcher had sounded skeptical when Lauren called this morning and explained she’d been hired to do a private investigation relating to a liability lawsuit being threatened by a property owner in the building and she was interviewing residents to gather information. All lies. When the woman asked for the particulars on the lawsuit, Lauren replied that she was not at liberty to discuss this, as it would possibly prejudice the results of her random interviews. She supplied the number of her state investigator’s license, which she legitimately possessed, but she could hear the uncertainty in Mrs. Fletcher’s voice when she said she’d like time to consider this and would call back later. Two hours passed as Lauren mentally chastised herself for thinking the woman would fall for such an obviously bogus story. Then her phone rang, and without bothering to inquire if her schedule was open, Isabella Fletcher informed her that they would meet that afternoon at two.
The doorman at the building located just blocks from Central Park, a beefy fellow with a burly voice, greeted Lauren with a tip of the hat, asked for her identification, examined it meticulously, and then sent her up, saying, “Mrs. Fletcher is expecting you.”
As Lauren entered she felt that sudden, final rush of heat that often came over her when she stepped from outdoors on a hot summer day into an air-conditioned building. The lobby was deserted. A man and woman exited the elevator and Lauren got on. It ascended; her stomach dropped. She told herself once more that what she was doing was completely justified.
An elderly woman opened the door, security chain in place, and peered out with clear blue eyes set below stern-looking brows and asked, in a voice equally as firm, “You
the investigator, Ms. O’Farrell?” Isabella Fletcher had not a trace of an accent, something Lauren had noted during their call.
“Yes. Very pleased to meet you, Mrs. Fletcher.”
Running her eyes over the younger woman as if having second thoughts, Isabella Fletcher asked to see her state-issued investigator’s license, as well as her driver’s license, which Lauren produced. For a moment she was sure Mrs. Fletcher would simply shut the door, but instead she said flatly, “You certainly aren’t what I expected.”
She’d heard this before, in a variety of ways. Generally it was,
You’re much shorter than I thought
, as if her phone voice was several inches taller than her stature of five foot two. Or that she was much younger than expected, though she had just turned thirty-six, which she considered well into adulthood. Or,
I thought you were Irish
. Would it be that difficult to surmise that she had married an American man with Irish roots? She wondered why people seemed incapable of drawing this conclusion on their own. Often when a client, a museum official, or even the owner of a questionable piece of art met her face-to-face, she would catch a familiar reaction, seldom verbalized but easily read. She had her mother and grandmother Goldman’s stature and profile; her grandmother Rosenthal’s piercing dark eyes and thick, curly black hair. Or so her father said. She had never met her paternal grandparents.
Slowly, the door opened.
“Come in,” Mrs. Fletcher said, motioning with an open palm, though her tone extended no invitation. She was beautifully dressed in a pale blue linen suit with a string of pearls. Her silver hair was styled as if she had just come from the “beauty parlor,” as Patrick’s grandma O’Farrell always called it.
A teapot whistled from the kitchen as they stepped from the foyer. “Would you like tea?” Isabella Fletcher offered. Lauren wondered if the woman had timed the pot to whistle precisely as they entered the living room. Grateful she had arrived on time, though she usually did, Lauren guessed that tardiness would have been frowned upon.