Book Review: Susan C Shea’s The King’s Jar

April 22, 2013 5 out of 5, review 1 ★★★★★

Book Review: Susan C Shea’s The King’s JarTitle: The King's Jar
Author: Susan C. Shea
Genre: Mystery
My Rating: five-stars
My Copy: ARC via Top Five Books
Add to: Goodreads
Synopsis: Acquisition of the King's Jar, a priceless African artifact, is a major coup for San Francisco's prestigious Devor Museum of Art and Antiquities—and the gala celebration honoring its donors is a high-stakes affair. Dani O'Rourke, Devor's chief fundraiser, is a pro at dealing with wealthy patrons, demanding bosses, big egos, and museum-world politics. Murder, however, is way above her pay grade, and definitely beyond her comfort zone.

When the renowned archaeologist who authenticated the King's Jar turns up dead, and the invaluable relic vanishes, Dani suddenly finds herself trapped in a real-life game of Clue—with a gallery of glittering suspects, and a killer who's playing for keeps. But drumming up donations from society swells is a far cry from matching wits with homicidal thieves. And juggling the amorous advances of a police detective, a TV celebrity, and her own playboy ex-husband—while sparring with an African ambassador, an obsessed archaeologist-in-training, a billionaire and his trophy wife—certainly doesn't make it any easier to figure out who's lying...or keep anyone else from dying.

Susan C. Shea’s The King’s Jar is the second book in her Dani O’Rourke series. If you haven’t read the first book, Murder in the Abstract, don’t fret. I planned on reading it prior to The King’s Jar, but decided to go in without any previous knowledge as most new readers in a series do. It’s not necessary to read Murder in the Abstract, but be aware Shea does mention a few situations from the first book that may be viewed as spoilers, but I don’t think they are.

The Dover Museum of Art and Antiquities is aflutter with the upcoming opening exhibit of the King’s Jar, a priceless African artifact. Dover’s chief fundraiser Dani O’ Rourke is one of the last people to see Dr. Rene Bouvier alive. He was the archaeologist who authenticated the jar and on the day of her meeting with Rene, she learns of his dislike for television presenter Simon Anderson. Despite Rene’s death, the exhibit is scheduled to open as planned, until the King’s Jar goes missing and no one knows where it could be. When a socialite connected to the jar turns up dead, questions begin to arise and everyone is a suspect. Dani knows the only way to bring a murder out in the open is to find the artifact. Will Dani locate its whereabouts before another murder is committed or will the jar be forever lost?

I really enjoyed The King’s Jar. The writing is engaging and witty. I laughed out loud a few times. I like that Dani is a real woman with real issues. She’s still dealing with the fallout of her divorce, but she’s not hung up on what ifs. She’s not afraid to stand up to her ex-husband or anybody for that matter. Shea combines her real life experience as a nonprofit executive with Dani’s career as a fundraiser. Dani’s career comes to life and a few times I was exhausted for Dani and her workload! In terms of characterization, Shea doesn’t go into deep characteristics and there’s a reason for this. The King’s Jar is told in Dani’s perspective, but unlike most first person point-of-view narratives, we get in-depth descriptions. We may not read exactly what a secondary character is thinking, but Shea goes to great length to describe facial expressions and body language. It almost feels as if the reader is standing in a room with the characters and part of the action. There’s a series of secondary characters you’ll easily come to love. As a reader, I’m not suppose to like Dickie, Dani’s ex-husband, who cheated on her, but I adore him. It’s clear he still cares about her and wants to make up for his mistake and I’m quietly trying to shake some sense into Dani. Then again, I quite like Charlie, the police investigator who is always busy too date.

As for the mystery, there’s no shortage of suspects. Shea does a phenomenal job feeding the reader clues along the way. While the initial twist we’re given at the end isn’t what I expected, it fits, especially when you consider the implications and expectations of high society. I’m pretty good at putting clues together, but Shea threw a few curveballs. We have creepy grad student Oscar and playboy television presenter, Simon, both of them make great suspects. Then throw in the possibility of a foreign government committing murder and the question regarding ownership of the jar and we’re left with a string of suspects. I was kept on the edge of my seat and it was a fun read.

I debated heavily with the rating between a four and a five and in the end decided on a five. The reason primarily is the twist I mentioned and for the rich descriptive passages. It’s not a fast paced read and I really like that. Sometimes a reader needs a drawn out story and just to get lost in the world the author creates.

I’m going to take a moment to discuss to the paperback copy of The King’s Jar. It’s the first Top Five Book, I’ve physically held and it’s a gorgeous book! The paper used is nice and thick and a real treat for the hands. The cover design is beautiful! I know the physical copy is a bit pricey when compared to the ebook price, but if you can get your hands on a physical copy, do.

If you’re fan of mysteries, I recommend Susan C. Shea’s The King’s Jar. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series, but in the meantime I have Murder in the Abstract to read.

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