Ex Libris
by John Oehler

"If thickness was any measure, Control knew Lovel best. Jade reread his dossier. More details than were necessary for a job in which she only had to track him."

Dan Lovel, a former agent with the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service who freelances in discovering art forgeries and recovering stolen art, is sent a message and a ticket to meet on the island of Grand Cayman from Astrid Desmarais, a World Bank executive whose life he saved. The meeting results in Dan's accepting a commission to return four books—and, perhaps more significantly, a fifth—from a collection of "forbidden books" currently in Prague. Astrid tells Dan that the books were expropriated by Napoleon and by rights should be returned to the Louvre. The World Bank mystery woman knows how to play upon Dan's feelings of theft and betrayal, as his ancestors include people of Jewish and Gypsy lineage who were robbed, imprisoned, and killed during the Nazi era.

Astrid has a daughter, Martine. Martine accompanies Dan against his will on a long journey of ambivalence, violence, and meetings with people whose identities and loyalties seem conflicted or uncertain. Martine has a friend in Paris named Paulette. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, the author appears to be making a pun on the word "palette" since Paulette is a painter who was blinded in an accident and has a mixed palette of connections.

The suspense builds as the characters increase in number. Meanwhile, the uncertainty increases in an even greater proportion to the characters. No one can be said to work from pure or entirely truthful motives. The fifth book is of particular interest to the plot since its contents contain the potential to facilitate a major war. Oehler's book has won a plethora of awards. With its superior writing and engaging storyline, the novel's critical acclaim will be of no surprise to its readers.

A 2020 Eric Hoffer Book Award Category Finalist

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

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