Sarah Stewart Taylor's first novel O'Artful Death was a real treat. I enjoyed it tremendously and found it both novel and a worthwhile mystery to untangle.
I met Taylor at a Mystery Book Signing a year and a half ago and have been patiently waiting to read the first two books in her series. She was extremely nice, very approachable, and did not fit the stereotypical mold of a cozy mystery author. She was the kind of author I could somehow imagine emailing and getting a thoughtful response from her. Her personality as much as the subject matter attracted me to her books.
Taylor's main character, Sweeney St. George is an art historian who studies funerary art. Yep, gravestones. This first story has her uncovering the history of a pre-Raphelite tomb located at an artist's colony in Vermont. In good mystery style, the mystery surrounding the early death becomes tied in to a contemporary murder. Sweeney contacts the descendant of the woman who died to ask about the tomb. Within 24 hours the descendant is killed. The game is afoot.
I enjoyed the story that Taylor told outside of the mystery. She had obviously done extensive research into both art and American artist's colonies of the nineteenth century. A world I know absolutely nothing about, I find myself curious to learn a bit more after reading O'Artful Death. In addition, the convoluted story that emerges left me guessing. Taylor placed well argued red herrings. And, she had enough twists and turns that the murderer was not obvious. But, once the crimes had been revealed I could go back and pick up the clues she had placed to go "oh, I get it now." The book was nowhere near as fluffy as some of the mysteries I have read in the recent past.
My only gripe (and this is just a personal annoyance of mine) is that like many academic mysteries, academia is only interjected at the beginning to set up the main character as a researcher. Per usual, the research takes place off campus during vacation.
I will definitely read more of Taylor's work. I have Judgement of the Grave waiting for me upstairs. But, it is time to turn to slightly more literary pursuits and pick up my two book club books next.