Boston based Professor Sweeney St. George is considered an
expert on Victorian burial practices and rituals,
especially the art representations including gravestones.
Her friend Toby DiMarco persuades Sweeney to spend her
Christmas vacation with his relatives at Byzantium,
Vermont, a town that once hosted a former artists' colony.
Sweeney immediately accepts the invitation. She wants to
know about the unknown artist who carved a highly artistic
but strange looking tombstone commemorating the death of
Mary Elizabeth Denholm by drowning in 1890. Sweeney's
efforts to identify the stone's sculptor seem about to be
rewarded when a descendent of the deceased Ruth Kimball
offers to provide information. However, before Ruth can
deliver, someone kills her, but no one seems too excited
over the homicide. Sweeney, assisted by another visitor,
turns to Tennyson in a quest for a clue to a killer who
will murder again to keep some things secret.
Sarah Stewart Taylor's debut novel is entertainingly
refreshing because the who-done-it plays a secondary role
to the in depth look at the art of death. Cleverly
intertwined into the investigative plot is an intriguing
analysis of Tennyson, as well as other artists especially
from the Victorian period. Fans will appreciate this
cleverly crafted fine arts mystery.
Reviewed by PNR Group Member
Posted May 16, 2003
Newcomer Sarah Stewart Taylor delivers a compelling and
atmospheric cozy mystery that introduces Sweeney St.
George, an art historian in Boston with a special interest
in the art of death. Sweeney becomes interested in
Byzantium, Vermont, an art colony that flourished in the
late nineteenth century, when she comes upon a photograph
of the striking gravestone of a girl who drowned, and may
have been murdered, in 1890. The stone is in a tiny
cemetery surrounded by other beautiful, if unremarkable,
headstones, some dating back hundreds of years. But the
unsigned sculpture that marks this young woman¬'s grave is
of extremely high quality and the artist is unrecognizable.
Sweeney is soon hooked, not only on the mystery of who
created the beautiful sculpture but also on the details of
the events surrounding the girl¬'s death. When the friend
who showed her the gravestone invites Sweeney to visit his
relatives in Byzantium for Christmas, she jumps at the
chance, knowing full well that the girl¬'s murder has
achieved the status of mythology in the town and hoping
she¬'ll be able to uncover new information. But by the time
they arrive, her interest in the girl and the sculpture has
gotten around town and, in fact, seems to have disturbed a
killer. For not long after Sweeney arrives, one of the
girl's descendants is murdered, shot and left lying in the
cemetery. Taylor has written a remarkably accomplished
debut mystery in the traditional cozy vein, and she's sure
to win over legions of fans with O' Artful Death.