Monday, March 24, 2014

Under the Egg

Under the Egg
by Laura Marx Fitzgerald
Dial, 2014.  247 pgs. Mystery

     Theodora Tenpenny is pretty much on her own after her grandfather Jack dies. She lives with her Mom, but her mother is kind of cuckoo - she only works on mathematical theorems all day, and drinks expensive, exotic tea blends. Jack died in an auto-pedestrian accident, but before he passed away he told Theo to look under the egg to find a letter . . . and a treasure. Theo's family keeps chickens in the backyard, and has a vegetable garden to supplement their meager income. Each day, honor of place goes to the first egg laid which is set in a cradle on the mantelpiece to be replaced the next day by a freshly-laid one. Theo doesn't find anything under the real egg, but when she takes her grandfather's picture of an egg down from the mantelpiece, she finds an obviously old and probably very valuable painting which may even be a Raphael. How she and her new celebrity friend Bodhi discover where the painting came from and to whom it belongs constitutes the remainder of the tale. Under the Egg is a fun, touching, and instructive mystery with beginnings in World War II and references to the monument men who were charged to reclaim works of art stolen by the Nazis. The characters are well wrought and are mostly good company. A good deal of art history is painlessly delivered, and the puzzle will appeal to kids who like Blue Balliet's art mysteries.  The ending is abrupt and hard to swallow - a few too many convenient coincidences, but this is still a fun read and a great puzzle.

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