REVIEW: The Metropolitan Affair by Jocelyn Green
For years her explorer father promised Dr. Lauren Westlake she’d accompany him on one of his Egyptian expeditions. But as the empty promises mounted, Lauren determined to earn her own way. Now the assistant curator of Egyptology for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lauren receives two unexpected invitations.
The first is her repentant father’s offer to finally bring her to Egypt as his colleague on a new expedition. The second is a chance to enter the world of New York’s wealthiest patrons who have been victims of art fraud.
With Egyptomania sweeping the city after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, Detective Joe Caravello is on the hunt for a notorious forger preying on the open wallets of New York’s high society. Dr. Westlake is just the expert he needs to help him track the criminal. Together they search for the truth, and the closer Lauren and Joe get to discovering the forger’s identity, the more entangled they become in a web of deception and crime.
Dear Ms. Green,
When I saw the blurb for this book, it caught my attention because of the 1920s time setting and because it featured a heroine with a doctorate in Egyptology. That (“Empress of the Nile”), as well as the Met (“All the Beauty in the World”), seem to be in my reading lately. And what a gorgeous Art Deco cover! I had enjoyed your last book, “Drawn by the Current” which featured an insurance agent heroine in 1915 and couldn’t wait to see what you’d do with Lauren.
Well, I’ll just be honest and say that I thought it took a while for the plot to get its legs under it and start moving forward. Frankly the first 50 or so pages wandered around awkwardly with seemingly random things happening and little to tie them together. The plan (which is different from what the blurb hints at) that the police hero devised sounded wacky to me and his police chief.
The plot was quite intricate, having wheels within wheels. It took all the book long to unfold, had seemingly dozens of moving parts, and ended up being actually very interesting but wow, there were so many extraneous bits and pieces that clogged it up that I nearly gave up a time or two. There was also a lot of telling vs showing.
I did appreciate that Lauren, Joe, and many of the other characters are not plaster saints. They seemed real with challenging flaws, faults, and lots of area for character growth. I felt that they did, with one exception, indeed learn from what happened over the course of the story. Lauren was portrayed as intelligent but also struggling with self doubt because of how she’d been brought up. Joe’s family faced a crisis because of his father’s actions and what a close friend and colleague did, has left Joe reeling at work. It takes them time and effort to emerge from the other side of their doubts but when they did, it was believable.
There were little things that caught my attention throughout the book, tiny things here and there that yes, turned out to be important. At one point when Lauren explained how she knew that something was a forgery and then later when she wrote an article about it, I thought “That’s just telling the forgers how to do a better job.” But it also went to show how well Lauren knew her stuff.
New York City in 1925 came alive but while I appreciated all the historical details I found them to be too much. The plot was already convoluted and keeping track of the many characters was an effort. To have entire scenes tossed in that ended up not adding much made the book drag. I also felt that the short religious parts were awkwardly stuck in rather than feeling natural.
So I enjoyed parts of the story – the main character’s growth especially – but it’s just not a book that I can recommend wholeheartedly as too much of it felt like a slow trudge waiting for all the pieces to finally fall into place and reveal the whole. C