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Pictures    by Robert Daley order for
by Robert Daley
Order:  USA  Can
Harcourt, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Tim Davis

Antonio Murano, the twenty-five year old son-in-law of a European duke and duchess, has an intimate encounter with a beautiful woman - a woman who is not his wife - and his lapse in judgment is complicated by photographs of the ill-advised indiscretion. The photographer now threatens to publish the photographs, but he says that he will withhold publication if the foolhardy Murano will ante up $100,000.

Now Murano's mother-in-law, Lady Charlotte, gets involved in the scandalous incident by retaining the services of Probe Consultations, Incorporated, a discrete and resourceful private investigation firm in the United States. Lady Charlotte, solicitous of her daughter's emotional and physical well-being, wants to find out the truth about her son-in-law's sordid moment of apparent weakness: Was he, in fact, having an affair with the woman? Was the woman somehow involved with the photographer in some sort of a set-up designed to entrap the son-in-law and embarrass the family? Why had the photographer targeted Murano for his blackmail scheme? And was the son-in-law the real target, or is something larger and more pernicious at stake?

So, Vincent Conte, one of Probe's investigators, is dispatched to Europe. As a former New York City policeman (who 'resigned for the good of the department' following an unpleasant skirmish with his wife's lover, the 1st Deputy Commissioner of Police), the thirty-five year old Conte puts his considerable skills and instincts to work in the Murano case. Quickly, the brash Conte recognizes that Murano's father-in-law is not at all pleased about his son-in-law's shameful behavior; more to the point, though, the wealthy and powerful father-in-law seems even more displeased about Conte having been retained to investigate the matter.

Notwithstanding the father-in-law's objections, Conte - having been hired, after all, by the duchess and not the duke - quickly goes on the trail of the photographer and the seductive woman shown in the photographs with the embarrassed Murano. Clues lead the cynical investigator to the notorious red-light district in Amsterdam, but Conte's zealous pursuit of the truth quickly becomes precarious. A hit-and-run incident, an apparent suicide by hanging, a harrowing trek through Alpine terrain, and more than a few duplicitous and dangerous people intent upon murder all combine to make Conte's life complicated and exciting.

The skillful and innovative author Robert Daley (with an impressive output that includes seventeen novels and eleven nonfiction books) has served up another exciting thriller in Pictures. Crisp and intricate, Pictures is an intelligent and entertaining tale in which power, wealth, deceit, murder, and love are dangerously interwoven. With plenty of vivid characterizations and lots of compelling suspense, this book is certainly worth reading.

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