Friday, July 5, 2024

Book Tour & Excerpt: An Art Lover’s Guide to Paris and Murder by Dianne Freeman

About the Book

Filled with Victorian-era intrigue for readers of Rhys Bowen, Deanna Raybourn, Tasha Alexander, and Julia Seales, Dianne Freeman’s Agatha Award-winning series takes a delightful jaunt to the City of Light as Frances Wynn, the American-born Countess of Harleigh, encounters a murder scene at the Paris Exposition.

Frances and her husband, George, have two points of interest in Paris. One is an impromptu holiday to visit the Paris Exposition. The other is personal. George’s Aunt Julia has requested her nephew’s help in looking into the suspicious death of renowned artist Paul Ducasse. Though Julia is not entirely forthcoming about her reasons, she is clearly a woman mourning a lost love.

At the exposition, swarming with tourists, tragedy casts a pall on the festivities. A footbridge collapses. Julia is among the casualties. However, she was not just another fateful victim. Julia was stabbed to death amid the chaos. With an official investigation at a standstill, George and Frances realize that to solve the case they must dig into Julia’s life—as well as Paul’s—and question everything and everyone in Julia’s coterie of artists and secrets.

They have no shortage of suspects. There is Paul’s inscrutable widow, Gabrielle. Paul’s art dealer and manager, Lucien. Julia’s friend Martine, a sculptress with a jealous streak. And art jurist, Monsieur Beaufoy. The investigation takes a turn when it’s revealed that George has inherited control of Julia’s estate—and another of her secrets. While George investigates, Frances safeguards their new legacy, and is drawn further into danger by a killer determined to keep the past buried.

Excerpt from An Art Lover’s Guide to Paris and Murder

Monsieur Allard singled me out with his gaze. “Are you an admirer of Ducasse’s work?”

“Based on this painting, I believe I could be,” I replied. “But I haven’t seen enough of it to be sure. And I must admit, I am no connoisseur.”

“I assume you are a patron, Monsieur Allard,” George said, “since you arranged this tribute. Perhaps you can walk us through this display and show us the finer points of his work.”

Alicia Stoke-Whitney had stepped into view beside Allard. “There is no one who could do it better,” she said. “If anyone knows Ducasse’s particular style, it is Lucien.”

Monsieur Allard smiled fondly at her, then turned back to me. “Paul Ducasse was my dearest friend. I managed all his exhibits and sales, freeing him to devote himself to his art.”

He raised an arm to guide us along the long wall of Ducasse paintings. I let George move ahead with Allard and hung a step behind with Alicia. We listened attentively while Allard described technique and pointed out the nature of light, color, and expression. I simply knew I would have hung any of them on my walls with great pleasure. They were all of scenes the artist must have viewed every day and of people he knew—intimate, honest portraits that made me feel as if I knew them, too.

I tore my gaze from one canvas, only to see that I did indeed know the person depicted in the next painting. It was Lady Julia, but not as I’d ever seen her. No more than twenty-three or twenty-four years of age, she stood behind an easel, applying brush to canvas, wearing a paint-stained smock over her dress, with a paintbrush tucked behind one ear. Her dark brown hair fell from a loose chignon and formed frenzied waves around her face. The artist seemed to catch her as she glanced up from her work.

The look in her eyes was unmistakably one of love.

I couldn’t help but stare. Unless someone had been standing behind Ducasse as he painted her, Lady Julia was obviously in love with the man.

“This is quite . . . something,” George said. He did not seem as surprised as me.

Monsieur Allard gave George a narrow look. “This is an example of his earlier work. Not his best piece, by far.” He shifted his regard from George to the painting and crossed his arms, nodding to himself. “It does show his promise, though, I must admit.”

A woman stepped up next to Allard, oozing elegance, as so many Frenchwomen did. Her blond hair was drawn up with a minimum of twisting and fixed with a jet embellishment that matched the trim on the bodice of her gown. A wide waistband, almost like a cummerbund, separated it from the black silk skirt that swept the floor in a demi-train. She was as much a work of art as the paintings in this room.

Allard angled himself to include her in the conversation. “May I present Madame Ducasse?” he asked, then turned to her. “This is Lady Harleigh and her husband, Monsieur Hazelton, from England.”

So, the artist had left a widow. “Please accept our condolences on your loss, madame,” I said. “Such a tragic accident.”

She gave me a wan smile as she turned from the painting to George. “Hazelton? I see the family resemblance. You are related, are you not?”

Monsieur Allard gasped. “Do you mean to say . . . ?” He let the words drift as he, too, looked from the painting to George and back. “I never knew that was Lady Julia,” he said. “I never knew . . .”

My guess was that the man hadn’t meant to repeat himself. If he had finished the second sentence, I suspect he would have said that he never knew Lady Julia was in love with Paul Ducasse.

“It was many years ago,” Madame Ducasse said, and for a moment, I thought she had read my mind. Then I realized she was speaking to Allard’s comment that he hadn’t recognized Julia. “Perhaps she would like to have this one.”

Allard’s harrumph evoked a chuckle from her. “It is not one of his best works,” she said. “You said so yourself.”

“I can see why my aunt might be interested in purchasing the painting,” George said, “but on the off chance she isn’t, I certainly am.”

From An Art Lover’s Guide to Paris and Murder © 2024, Dianne Freeman, published by Kensington Books

The Countess of Harleigh Mystery series


About the Author
Dianne Freeman is the acclaimed author of the Agatha and Lefty Award winning Countess of Harleigh Mysteries, a two-time finalist for the Macavity’s Sue Feder Memorial Award, and a finalist for the Mary Higgins Clark Award. She spent thirty years working in corporate accounting and finance and now writes full-time. Born and raised in Michigan, she and her husband now split their time between Michigan and Arizona. Visit her at

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for your comment!