Roberta L. Smith is not only a talented writer, but she is the sister of one of my best friends. So when she asked me to read and review her latest book, I jumped at the chance. She has three books under her belt, all featuring gruff but loveable Mickey McCoy, a psychic who can see ghosts and often has prescient dreams. The Accordo is Mickey’s latest adventure, and if you like your ghost stories scary and your characters quirky, you’ll love this book.
Mickey’s adventure starts with a dream in Italian, and although he can’t understand the words, he knows something is up, because occurrences like this always have meaning in Mickey’s world. Shortly after, he receives a strange phone call from a mystery gentleman urging him to come to Los Angeles in order to prevent a murder. Knowing these two events are somehow connected, Mickey hops on a plane and is soon investigating the location of the supposed murder, the Brahms Museum. In Gallery 17, he is drawn to the self-portrait of a Renaissance artist named Lavinia Zanetti, where he senses a paranormal presence. As Mickey observes the portrait and the other visitors in the museum, he notices that the woman in the portrait seems to change expressions and somehow causes men’s thumbs to throb with pain if they stand too close. Mickey has found his ghost, and so begins his investigation into the tangled and horrible history of Lavinia and her lover Agostino.
When a local ghost-hunting operation called Paranormal Seekers Society gets a tip that a ghost might be present at the museum, ghost-hunters Dennis and his wife Kelly stake out Gallery 17, despite the fact that Mickey has had a premonition that Dennis will die if he goes to the Brahms. After Dennis is attacked in the gallery and his clothes destroyed by knife slashes (he wisely wore body armor after Mickey tried to stop him from going), Mickey determines that this is no ordinary ghost, but one who can wield a weapon and kill.
Mickey’s probing turns up some interesting facts about Lavinia’s portrait. The companion portrait of her lover Agostino, which was supposed to be hanging next to Lavinia’s in the Brahms Museum, has gone missing, and without Agostino’s calming energy, Lavinia is free to kill. At first Mickey tries to find Agostino’s painting and reunite it with Lavinia, but he discovers something chilling: a book called the Accordo gives Lavinia and Agostino the power of immortality.
When Mickey’s wife Marjorie decides to join him in Los Angeles and help with the case, things get worse, and Marjorie is in danger of falling prey to Lavinia. Mickey must do everything in his power to destroy the painting and the Accordo and save Marjorie before it’s too late. Along the way he gets help from several ghosts, as well as a haunted GPS, but as expected, things do not always go smoothly. Smith takes the reader on quite the rollercoaster ride before the story is over, and there is never a shortage of interesting characters or twisty plot turns.
The Accordo is intricately plotted and carefully researched. Roberta actually based the character of Lavinia on a real-life Renaissance artist named Artemisia Gentileschi, and these authentic details add another layer to an already packed story. The characters and their relationships with each other are particularly engaging. I loved the relationship between Mickey and Marjorie. They clearly love each other and are willing to go to any lengths to keep the other safe and happy. But it is the ghostly characters that I found the most intriguing. Although Lavinia is a truly evil and vile creature, the author manages to give her a horrific back-story that may evoke compassion from the reader. One of my favorite characters was another slightly unpleasant ghost named Avery, the dead daughter of the woman who owned the two paintings, and who has a complicated story all her own.
And I’ve barely scratched the surface on the cast of characters and subplots that figure in the final showdown between Mickey and Lavinia. Smith does a wonderful job keeping all of them straight and navigating her intricate plot, while infusing her story with terrifying and ghostly events alongside some remarkable emotionally charged moments. Although I won’t reveal the ending, I can tell you it was brilliant. Smith has a true gift for story-telling, and I’ll be anxious to read her next book.
Many thanks to the author for supplying a review copy.
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