#Bookreview – The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson

The Lover's Portrait: An Art Mystery (Adventures of Zelda Richardson Book 2)

What Amazon says

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 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 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.

** One of The Displaced Nation’s Top 36 Expat Fiction Picks of 2016 **

Set in present day and wartime Amsterdam, this captivating mystery is not just about stolen paintings, but also the lives that were stolen.

The perfect novel for those who love art, history and mysteries.

This amateur sleuth mystery describes the plight of homosexuals and Jewish artists in Europe during World War II, as well as the complexities inherent to the restitution of artwork stolen by the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s. The Lover’s Portrait: An Art Mystery draws on the author’s experiences gained while studying art history in the Netherlands and working for several Dutch museums.

My review

I listened to this novel as an audio book and I absolutely loved it. Ms Alderson’s descriptions of beautiful Amsterdam and the lovely artworks detailed in the book are superb and were an interesting background for this very exciting thriller. The book is largely set in the present time but flips back to the past intermittently. I thought the movement between the time periods was well done and really added to the intensity of the book.

The plot revolves around a piece of art, called Irises, that is featured in a display, by Museum Amsterdam, aimed at restoring unclaimed artworks, misappropriated during WWII, to their rightful owners. This relatively unimportant artwork by an unknown artist is quickly claimed by two Americans of very different backgrounds and personalities. Zelda, a young student, who has been engaged as an intern at the museum to assist with translating the description of the artworks on display from Dutch into English, soon becomes embroiled in the stand-off between the two claimants and the search to find more information relating to the piece in order to settle the claim. Zelda quickly starts to realize that there is more to these two claims, and this piece of art, than meets the eye. I found the detail around the process involved in claiming lost artwork very interesting. I have never thought about this before. The gradual unfurling of the story and the role of Irises in the plot was cleverly done.

The book provides a lot of interesting information about the impact of WWII on the city of Amsterdam and it population and gives insight into the fate of both the Jewish and the homosexual inhabitants of the city at that time.

I thought the characters in the book were well developed and I really related to Zelda and her affinity to an American claimant who lost her father and family home during WWII.  I understood Zelda’s interest in the old woman and her desire to help her claim her family’s heirloom. I also understood her immediate dislike of the arrogant and spoilt second claimant. Zelda’s character is hot headed and rash and she does some very impetuous things but I liked that and didn’t think it was impossible or totally unbelievable.

Which one of the two claimants is genuine and what secret does Irises hold?

Amazon reviews

Southern reader rated it five out of five stars and said:

The author has done an extraordinary job at weaving stories together to form a wonderful tapestry of a book. The book takes place in 2017 and in 1942. The author switches back and forth between the two thus providing all sides of the story. The protagonist, Zelda, is a rather naive young lady who does some really dumb things. But her actions and thoughts are completely appropriate for a 20something. 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.

Purchase The Lover’s Portrait

The Lover’s Portrait is available as a kindle, softback and audio book. I purchased my copy for Audible.


Robbie and Michael Cheadle are the co-authors of the Sir Chocolate Book series and Robbie Cheadle is the author of Silly Willy goes to Cape Town

23 thoughts on “#Bookreview – The Lover’s Portrait by Jennifer S. Alderson

  1. A wonderfully sensitive review Robbie of a complex and, probably at times, harrowing book dealing with one of our darkest historical periods and the devastating aftermath that continued to haunt the generations who lived through it as well as the ones that came after.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are right, Paul. WWII has always fascinated, horrified and overwhelmed me. I read books like I am David, When Hitler stole pink rabbit and The diary of Anne Frank when I was a young girl and the atrocities of WWII have always remained in my mind. This books sheds a slightly different perspective on the horrors of this war.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I am sure it does, it covers disturbing issues like the treatment of the Jews and the homosexuals during the war as well as other interesting topics like famous artworks, relationships and digital technology.


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