Sunday, November 15, 2009

Stealing with Style by Emyl Jenkins

Stealing with Style cover

Stealing with Style
by Emyl Jenkins

Hardback: 338 pages
Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
First Released: 2005

Author Website
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Source: Bought from

Back Cover Description:
Sterling Glass has built a nice appraisal business in her small Virginia town. She's sought after to examine antiques, research their history, present her clients with approximate values, and help them distinguish good antiques from not so good ones. And when family skeletons are unearthed among the heirlooms, she is the soul of discretion. It's a world she navigates with ease.

But that's before she's called in to examine a diamond brooch found tucked inside an oven mitt over at the Salvation Army thrift store. And before the appraisal of an extremely modest estate turns up a tea urn—hidden inside a basket—worth at least fifty grand.

Things aren't adding up, and Sterling, never one to let go of loose ends, starts asking questions. It's not long before she uncovers an intricate plot involving a slew of antique pieces, the oldest families in Leemont, some sophisticated scammers, crooked antiques dealers, and shifty people at the best New York auction houses. Add to that one elderly man who's just trying to preserve his family's treasured collection of bronze and ivory Art Deco sculptures, and suddenly Sterling finds herself ensnared in a mystery laced with greed, deceit, and danger.

Stealing with Style, the first in the Sterling Glass series, introduces a writer of great wit who has a grand sense of the mystery hidden in our most treasured possessions.

Stealing with Style is a "who-stole-it" mystery. It's not really a "puzzle it out before the heroine" mystery since the heroine has more knowledge about antiques (which is why she's involved) than the reader probably does. It's only because of her knowledge that anyone realizes what's wrong. But the mystery was fascinating, convincing, and complex. And I learned a lot about antiques.

The characters were enjoyable and fairly complex. The details about the antiques business were nicely woven into the story and made the story feel realistic.

My only problem was that the author sometimes assumed that the reader knew why an antiques appraiser like Sterling had been consulted--what the insurance agent, for example, wanted her to do. Often, this became clear as Sterling did the job, but I still would have enjoyed a stronger hint from the beginning about why she was called in rather than being left to puzzle it out. And I never did figure out what the insurance agent had expected her to do versus what she ended up doing. This didn't really matter to understanding the story, but I was interested in knowing nonetheless.

There was a very minor amount of bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as well-written, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
I've made a lot of mistakes along the way because I've spoken first and thought second. Like when I agreed to write a column on antiques for a newspaper syndicate. Deadlines, questions almost impossible to answer in just a few words, plus all those letters about things that are no more than a few years old. Seems most people think anything that belonged to their granny is an antique. Not so. Any lawyer will tell you an object must be at least a hundred years old to be an "antique," and connoisseurs insist that true antiques predate the 1820s or 1840s when new machines and tools eliminated a lot of hand work. Yes, I should have thought first and spoke second.

But probably my biggest mistake was the time I said, purely matter-of-factly, "Invite me over to see your things one day and after about thirty seconds I'll know all about you."

I wasn't bragging or trying to be smart. Honest. I was just making casual cocktail-party conversation. But from the horrified look I got from the well-heeled couple I had hoped would be my clients, I knew that not only had I said the wrong thing, I'd scared them half to death. Every family has more than its share of skeletons, if not in their closets, then in their grandmother's trunks--skeletons they want to stay put. But, you see, I'm an appraiser. People not only invite me into their homes to look around, they pay me to tell them all about their things. Along the way, I can't help but uncover their deepest secrets.


Maria said...

Great Review!:) The cover looks good.

Genre Reviewer said...


Thanks for taking the time to make a comment. I'm glad you found the review useful. :)