Lisa Barr has included all kinds of intriguing elements in this enjoyable read: Nazi-looted art, old-school journalism, fashion, deception, and romance.
Woman on Fire is set across New York, Montana, Miami, France, Germany,and Chicago, featuring globe-trotting investigative journalists, elegant murderous villains, and the rich and famous. Most of the story takes place in the present, with a few jaunts to World War II-era events.
Protagonist Jules is a budding journalist. The brilliant young reporter is motivated by the search for truth, her good nature, and palatable early twenty-something career ambition.
Jules is determined to get the whole story and insure that the painting Woman on Fire, the last work by one of Germany’s murdered avant-garde artists, is returned to its rightful owner – famous shoe designer Ellis Baum – before he dies.
Barr sketches a colorful backstory for her cunning gallerist villain. Alongside a few well-placed emotional breadcrumbs, the psychopathic Margaux de Laurent is the inverse of Jules.
The book veers into bodice-ripper territory with a few sexually explicit scenes. Adam, Ellis Baum’s formerly estranged grandson, is a compulsively talented artist who once struggled with drug addiction. With Adam’s dark side completely in check after rehab and a stint in peaceful, isolated, unpretentious Montana, Adam offers critical help in the search for the painting. He falls hard for Jules who, despite her no-nonsense, mature persona, is easily pulled into Adam’s complex-yet-sincere orbit.
Woman on Fire is an exciting and entertaining novel. An excellent easy read at the beach or on travel adventures of your own.
Lindsey Bodner is a writer and an education foundation director. She lives in Manhattan with her family.