Sonoma, California artist Phoebe loves her little house and studio but painting wine bottle labels is not bringing in enough income to escape foreclosure. At the surprise birthday party celebrating Phoebe’s fortieth, the ghost of artist Marc Chagall who died twenty-five years ago first appeared to her. Chagall is determined to assist Phoebe in regaining her legacy, one of his paintings that her father had plucked from the garbage during the liberation of Paris. The painting was supposed to be sent home to his wife in the U.S. but instead, the person trusted to mail the painting kept it instead. Bernadette, the owner of a charming bed and breakfast in Provence knew the painting secreted away in her studio/apiary was stolen but she simply could not part with the charming piece so she kept it hidden, enjoying its beauty as a guilty secret.
Ray Fitch, the divorced owner of a small San Francisco art gallery has tried the dating scene, even speed dating, with less then success and has little enthusiasm to continue the exercise. He decides to take a Byroads bike tour of France, the same bike tour Phoebe got for free when a friend was unable to participate. With Chagall’s assistance, Phoebe, Ray, Bernadette and a host of quirky characters come together to reveal an enormous black market art crime ring and in the process, provide Phoebe with the means to keep her beloved home.
This delightful, light mystery is as quirky as the characters. The setting, from California to France and beyond is well stocked with food, wine and especially art. The budding romance between Ray and Phoebe leaves one hopeful for their future together yet doesn’t encumber the storyline. Chagall makes for a compelling ghost and it is fun watching him deal with the frustrations of trying to interact with the physical world. The international settings, fine interpersonal relationships and smooth pace make this book a treat.