If you like mystery novels or antiques in general, you’ll surely enjoy Silent Auction
by Jane K. Cleland. But if you just can’t put down a good mystery and relish learning about antiques at every opportunity, you might just love
this entertaining easy read from Cleland’s series of Josie Prescott antiques mysteries. You'll also meet some interesting characters and learn a bit about the antiques business along the way.
Not to give too much away, this one probably won’t be too difficult to crack for the seasoned mystery reader. However, it does have some interesting twists and turns as it winds its way through a fictitious coastal town in New England. It’s a classic story in which the main character, Josie Prescott, happens to be the proprietor of a respected auction house. When she finds one of her contract workers dead in a client’s home and she uses her vast knowledge of antiques to help solve the murder.
Many of the sub characters will likely be familiar to those who frequent shops, auctions and the like, which makes it entertaining for avid antiquers even if the mystery isn’t their favorite book genre.
While the book touches on several different types of antiques, especially nautical and maritime collectibles, it largely revolves around schrimshanding and the finished schrimshaw products made by skilled artisans – both antique and contemporary.
The book also teaches readers how to distinguish bone from ivory, an important lesson now that more and more ivory products are being excluded from the antiques marketplace regardless of their age. It also discusses the “hot pin test” in relation to ivory (which can also be used to distinguish Bakelite from other plastics, but is not a recommended test) in more than one area of the book.
The Antiques Business
Recognizing that it would be impossible to write a book about an auction proprietor and the shop owners she deals with in her quaint town without cluing readers in on the business side of things, the book also touches on managing inventory, utilizing pickers, and other ways dealers keep their stores stocked
with fresh merchandise. Some of the dealings are a bit shady, but this pretty well reflects the antiques business just as Maureen Stanton revealed in her book Killer Stuff and Tons of Money
, which isn’t a mystery novel but rather literary non-fiction in spite of the name.
What readers who don’t know much about the business will take away is that there are both honest and dishonest people in the antiques trade, just like in every other walk of life. At one point the author even admits that she understands why people become cynics regarding antiques and the individuals that sell them. But she also acknowledges that there are many honorable individuals trading antiques and brokering modern collectibles who can be trusted.
All in all, the experienced antiquer should enjoy this novel even if they’re not keen on mysteries in general. Novice antiquers will also walk away learning a few tricks of the trade while being entertained.
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publisher. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy