If you’re a fan of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, you will thoroughly enjoy this murder mystery that takes place in Bodega Bay, the town where the scary avian movie was shot. The amateur detectives here are Toby Sandler, an antiques dealer, and his wife, Nora Barnes, an art historian. When Toby’s partner is found murdered, Toby references Sam Spade in the Maltese Falcon: when a man’s partner is killed, he has to do something about it. So, he and Nora decide to help Deputy Sheriff Dan Ellis solve the crime.
The plot revolves around an unbelievably valuable Russian triptych dating back to pre-Renaissance times and, oddly enough, three storyboards from the Hitchcock movie. Back in the day, the Bodega Bay area was a Russian émigré enclave on California’s North Coast, and apparently some modern-day Russians are anxious to get their hands on the valuable piece. Before he was killed, Toby’s partner left some clues about the whereabouts of the Russian icon, and Nora’s expertise in art history helps in solving the puzzle.
Although the novel opens with a murder, the plot moves a bit slowly in the early chapters as the reader gets to know the people and the area and, particularly, the locations where the movie was shot (which proves very important later), but it picks up speed and finishes with a flourish and an unexpected conclusion.
The co-authors are professors emeriti of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. This is their second mystery novel featuring Nora and Toby, the first being Murder in Lascaux.