Picks and Pans Review: Lost & Found

updated 02/05/2001 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/05/2001 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Jayne Ann Krentz

When Cady Briggs's great-aunt Vesta dies suddenly, shortly after postponing a merger between her own successful art gallery and an elite San Francisco competitor, Cady suspects foul play. She hires Mack Easton, a specialist in tracking stolen art and a man with whom she once shared a night of passion, to help solve the mystery of Vesta's death. With Mack posing as her fiancé, Cady digs behind the scenes of her family business, uncovering a ring of furniture counterfeiters that threatens to destroy Vesta's legacy.

Set in an rarefied milieu, Lost & Found offers a mini-education in such esoteric subjects as the market value of 16th-century Italian armor or 13th-century jewelry. But it's the lusty ambition of grasping art-world insiders that propels this well-crafted tale, so we don't mind the occasional didactic detour. And while the romance between Cady and Mack proceeds predictably, it is juicy and appealing enough to carry the story beyond the dubious dealings of the gallery owners.

Over time, as Cady and Mack uncover Vesta's deeply held secrets, Cady is forced to re-examine all that she holds dear. Was it a shadowy con man who killed Vesta, or someone Cady has known and loved for most of her life? A surprise ending caps this delightful mystery from a seasoned pro. (Putnam, $23.95)

Bottom Line: Welcome escape into art-world intrigue

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