Book One of the Zelda Richardson Mystery Series
A portrait holds the key to recovering a cache of looted artwork, secreted away during World War II, in this captivating historical art thriller set in the 1940s and present-day Amsterdam.
When a Dutch art dealer hides the stock from his gallery – rather than turn it over to his Nazi blackmailer – he pays with his life, leaving a treasure trove of modern masterpieces buried somewhere in Amsterdam, presumably lost forever. That is, until American art history student Zelda Richardson sticks her nose in.
After studying for a year in the Netherlands, Zelda scores an internship at the prestigious Amsterdam Historical Museum, where she works on an exhibition of paintings and sculptures once stolen by the Nazis, lying unclaimed in Dutch museum depots almost seventy years later. When two women claim the same painting, the portrait of a young girl entitled Irises, Zelda is tasked with investigating the painting’s history and soon finds evidence that one of the two women must be lying about her past. Before she can figure out which one it is and why, Zelda learns about the Dutch art dealer’s concealed collection. And that Irises is the key to finding it all.
Her discoveries make her a target of someone willing to steal – and even kill – to find the missing paintings. As the list of suspects grows, Zelda realizes she has to track down the lost collection and unmask a killer if she wants to survive.
- Awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion by IndieBRAG’s readers in February 2019
- Chill with a Book’s January 2018 Book of the Month
- One of TripFiction’s 10 Favourite Books set in Amsterdam
- Winner of a Chill with a Book Readers’ Award
- Silver Cup Winner of Rosie’s Book Review Team Awards 2017 in the Mystery category
- One of Women Writer’s, Women’s Books Recommended Reads in 2017
- One of The Displaced Nation’s Top 36 Expat Fiction Picks of 2016
- Number 14 in the BookLife Prize for Fiction 2016, Mystery category
Learn more about the inspirations for The Lover’s Portrait on my blog.
Read what others think about The Lover’s Portrait…
“The Lover’s Portrait is a well-written mystery with engaging characters and a lot of heart. The perfect novel for those who love art and mysteries!“ – Reader’s Favorite, 5 star medal
“Well worth reading for what the main character discovers—not just about the portrait mentioned in the title, but also the sobering dangers of Amsterdam during World War II.” – IndieReader
5 stars: “Well written and well researched. I particularly enjoyed how Ms Alderson described war time Amsterdam and how the city was changed during occupation. The story describes a brutal account of how the Nazis took everything they wanted, including lives. It is also a modern day story of determination to help find the families of the paintings and arts that were stolen and lost. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be looking out for more from this author. Highly recommended.” – Chill with a Book Readers’ Award
4 stars: “A compelling mystery… a real page turner… Zelda is a determined young woman who stumbles into predicaments because of her desire to reveal the truth and the other characters also have convincing motives and characteristics. A great read.” – Lizanne Lloyd, ‘Lost in a Good Book’ blog
“The premise—Nazi-looted artworks hidden for decades—is both timely and terrific, and the settings were well-drawn and believable. Nazi atrocities against both Jews and homosexuals are well-documented. And we’ve all heard about families who’ve spent years trying to recover property looted by the Nazis.. Plus, as a thriller, the novel’s pacing unfolds perfectly, slowly at first and then racing to its dark climax.” – Barb Taub – ‘Writing & Coffee’ blog
8 stars (out of 10): “Alderson alternates between 1942 and 2015 in this gripping mystery that explores the provenance of artwork that was hidden from the Nazis during World War II and reappears in 2015… As the narrative unfolds and the truth is revealed, the suspense is intensely magnetic and the characters equally captivating.” – BookLife Prize for Fiction
5 stars: “This book has all the ingredients needed for a great mystery/thriller: history, intrigue, conspiracy, heartbreak, action and suspense. It may sound contrived or mundane to say that a book is a “page-turner” and that one “couldn’t put it down”, but it really is true of ‘The Lover’s Portait’. Set in Amsterdam, t’s a well-designed, fabulous historical puzzle, solved decades later by someone who has no intention of becoming a detective; rather, it is through her dogged commitment to the truth that she uncovers the answers. The author has woven together a number of compelling plot lines to construct her own work of art… Read it. You’re sure to enjoy this fantastic book.” – Joanne van Leerdam (WordyBirdy)
4 stars: “The setting of Amsterdam, both in the present and in the 1940s is very well depicted and, at least for me, the wish to go there increased as I read. I really enjoyed the description of the process of documentation and how to search for the provenance of artworks that is sufficiently detailed without getting boring… A good and solid book, an interesting intrigue that combines present and past, set in a wonderful Amsterdam and the art world, with likeable and intriguing characters, but not heavy on the psychological aspects or too demanding.” – Olga Núñez Miret of Olga Author Translates
5 stars: “The novel is well-paced and it is evident that the author has done extensive research on the time period and the art history related to it. The plot unravels smoothly and keeps the reader turning page after page as the tension gradually builds up. Reading “The Lover’s Portrait” was a thoroughly enjoyable experience for me.” – Dora Ilieva
4 stars: “Firmly set in Amsterdam, this enjoyable mystery explores the darker world of misappropriated and stolen art works during World War II….A good insight, via fiction, into the dark world of stolen artefacts, well researched and written with a good pace…
Setting is delightful… She spends time with her friend Friedrich at the Vondelpark and Museumplein, takes a trip out to Urk, and observes the unusual presence of parakeets… There are many more passing references for a bit of literary wanderlust to enjoy throughout the book. She has captured the very Dutch nature of the city and clearly knows it well.” – TripFiction
5 stars: “More than just a story – this book is a work of ‘writing’ art. It is alive in its language and description… Beautifully told, the story of Zelda’s search for art stolen from Dutch owners in World War II comes to life. While a work of fiction, Ms. Alderson’s meticulous research makes for a rich learning experience. It is a breathtaking tale… Another five star hit from this author.” – Janice J. Richardson
5 stars: “Ms. Alderson takes her reader on a fast paced journey amidst blackmail, murder and mystery, which all add to this captivating tale.” – Jane Jordan
4 stars: “A timeless topic…..a mystery that holds your attention….a pull on heart strings. All these add up to a book that will keep you reading and wondering “who done it”. A great twist on the topic. A well developed plot by a new author.” – Amazon customer
5 stars: “Excellent read! This book is a mystery/ thriller/ detective story which deals with the restoration of art to their rightful owners (if they can be identified) following theft by the Nazis during the Second World War. The story kept me engaged from the start, it deals with a fascinating time and an emotive subject. It’s well written and has been well researched…Great setting, too… Zelda is a great lead character and I look forward to her future exploits.” – author T. J. Green
4 stars: “A clever take on a complex subject that kept me guessing until the end.” – Colin Garrow
Stop by their Reading Rooms and take a look next time you’re in Amsterdam.
5 stars: “For me, a good historical novel must comprise fully developed characters, a compelling narrative, and absorbing information about the particular era referenced in the story. “The Lover’s Portrait” by Jennifer S. Alderson fits all these requirements…
The author’s exemplary research into art works stolen by the Nazis during World War 2 is evident. However, she does not overdo facts; but rather, she seamlessly weaves the thought-provoking information into her tale…
I highly recommend “The Lover’s Portrait” for artists, art lovers, history buffs, historical novel fans, and anyone else looking for a well-written, enjoyable read.” – author Pamela Allegretto
4 Stars: “Intriguing… It’s an intense and highly well written story about Zelda’s investigation into a painting’s history… Highly recommended and Alderson just found herself a new fan.” – author Amy Shannon, Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews
“A fascinating glimpse into the world of art museums and stolen art in the context of families not only trying to survive World War II but also retrieve what is rightfully theirs… Alderson has an easy style and the story moves along at a brisk pace.”- Susan, Goodreads
5 stars: “Such a treat to get immersed into not only a terrific art-themed mystery, but to be able to virtually look over the shoulders of characters charged with the responsibility of returning art to families who lost masterpieces in WWII. Great detail and engaging characters. Will be reading more by this author.” – R Ames, Amazon review
5 stars: “Well written mystery about stolen Nazi artwork. Alderson constructs a credible tale, that could have been ripped from current headlines of a young art student, Zelda Richardson thrust into a uncomfortable position working with a hostile colleague on a project attempting to reunite artwork with original owners. When two women claim ownership of the same painting, she finds herself thrust into danger and intrigue as she tries to unravel the tangled past. Informative and fast paced, this is an interesting read written by an author who clearly knows her subject. Three dimensional and well developed characters with the added bonus of the Dutch location. I look forward to seeing what Zelda will tackle next in her art world journey.” – Carole Roman
4 stars: “The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery had me excited from the get-go… As with many novels referencing WWII, the tone is often melancholy and bittersweet. So much was lost. While many novels focus upon the human loss, and it was disastrous, there is yet another aspect of loss: important and irreplaceable art and architecture. This novel focuses upon returning recovered artwork and the trust, love, and hate inspired by the desire of possession…
The plot is engaging and there are some good, believable twists… The novel moves smoothly between omniscient flashbacks and the limited omniscient present. The novel provides thoughtful, engaging reading that keeps you eagerly following past events and present predicaments…
It is clear this novel was authored with the same love and passion for writing that Zelda exhibits for researching art. The Lover’s Portrait creates both respect and delight.” –Reading Fury
5 stars: “I loved the premise of this book – trying to find the owners of works of art which have been misappropriated by the Nazis during WW2. Zelda’s determination to prove that Rita Brouwer is the rightful owner of the Lover’s Portrait when every one else is happy to hand over the painting to the pushy Karen O’Neil who seems to have all the right documentation to support her claim, is a great protagonist. Just when things seem to be going Zelda’s way and justice will be done, something happens and she is back having to start all over again… A great read that keeps the reader turning the page.” – Judith Cranswick
5 stars: “The author has done an extraordinary job at weaving stories together to form a wonderful tapestry of a book… In addition to being a good page-turning mystery, the story of WWII and the plight of the Dutch Jews and their art collections is extremely sobering. The main ‘action’ occurs at the end of the book and the author keeps you guessing throughout the story as she sprinkles clues and red herrings. The story richly chronicles the lives disrupted in 1942 and all the characters (except Zelda) are beautifully portrayed. I liked them, felt their loss through their eyes and mourned the circumstances which they endured as I read the book.” – Southern Reader, Amazon customer
5 stars: “The well written description of wartime and present day Amsterdam and the dilemmas concerning the restitution of art, gives this exciting art mystery color and depth. It is a real page turner because the writer pulls you into the story quickly and keeps you guessing until the very end.” – iBooks customer
PAPERBACK and KINDLE EDITIONS: ISBN-13: 978-1523489176; ISBN-10: 1523489170
SMASHWORDS EDITION: ISBN-13: 9781311818898
KEYWORDS: art mystery, historical fiction, amateur sleuth, international crime, crime fiction, woman sleuth, art history, mystery, suspense, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, WWII, 20th Century, travel fiction