First Paragraph: "The woman with long red hair appeared to be leisurely browsing one of the clothing racks in the Paris boutique, but her attention was less focused on the fabric and cut of the dresses than on the art gallery visible through the shop's front window. When a couple, obviously tourists- easily identifiable because of their camera case, sensible tennis shoes, and bright jackets- exited the gallery and wandered away to explore more of the Seventh Arrondissement, the woman abandoned the boutique and quickly crossed the narrow Rue Andre to the arched doorway under five stories of iron balconies."
Deceptive by Sara Rosett is the third (and final?) book in the On the Run Trilogy (possibly series).
Beware: spoilers of the first two books, Elusive and Secretive, beyond here. You can check out my reviews of those two books here and here, respectively. Final warning.
A few months after the events of the last book, and almost a year since those in the first, Zoe and Jack are back in hot water. At the end of the last book, Anna had devised a scheme using the painting she stole from Costa. All these months later, she's finally putting it into play.
Disguising herself as Zoe, she is selling the painting in Paris. What makes the plan so perfect is that Costa set it up for Zoe and Jack to take the fall too. He created an account with the stolen GRS money that was the plot for the last two books, labelling Zoe as the owner of the account.
Meanwhile, unaware of the events taking place, Zoe is getting used to having Jack back in her home and her life. Jack's made it very clear he wants to try getting back together-taking it slow this time, so as not to make the same mistakes as before. But Zoe isn't sure that's what she wants. She can't deny the attraction, but she's wary after how their marriage fell apart. They worked well together on the run, but there's a big difference between being a 'couple under pressure' and a real-life couple, capable of handling even the mundane together.
All this is put to the back of her mind when she discovers the body of her occasional client, Lucinda. All she wanted to do was deliver the flyers ordered, but a note on the front door leads her to the garden, and the corpse with a knife in it's back- casually reclining on the chaise lounge. While trying to summon the courage to (unnecessarily) check for a pulse, she's knocked out by an unseen assailant- coming to in her car half an hour later. She immediately calls the police, but when they go to check the 'scene of the crime' all evidence Lucinda was ever there is gone. No flyers (which Zoe had dropped everywhere), no knife and no bloody Lucinda. Not even one drop of blood on the chaise lounge.
When the police check with Lucinda's office, they tell her that Lucinda left on holiday the day before. Thoroughly confused, and facing chargers for wasting police time, Zoe explains the situation to Jack on the way home, but they're stopped short when they see 'Green Lawn Care' vans parked outside their house, with a strange man waiting for them- holding the missing flyers Zoe dropped at Lucinda's.
Long story short, the man is Oscar. He works for Darius Gray, who believes they have something that belongs to him- the stolen painting. When they try to explain that Anna stole it in Germany, Oscar isn't having any of it. He doesn't care who has it, he only cares about getting it back- and has tasked Zoe with the job. Gray found the money trail leading to her, so she has to get it.
They know the missing painting is valuable, but not just how valuable it is until Oscar lets slip that it's the missing Monet painting 'Marine', that was stolen from a museum in Rio de Janeiro in 2006. And either they get it back to Gray in three days, or he will pile up the evidence that Zoe killed Lucinda- helpfully pointing out that her body is buried in Zoe's flowerbed- courtesy of 'Green Lawn Care'. That and he'll kill all her friends and family. If they succeed, Gray will forget it ever happened, destroy all evidence of the murder, and leave Zoe and Co alone. With little choice, Zoe and Jack are off on another adventure.
Her first instinct is to call Mort from the FBI- not knowing that he retired in the last book. When that fails, she decides to go it alone (with Jack of course), as she doesn't think the rest of the FBI will believe her story.
Meanwhile, Sato is getting used to his new partner and missing his old one. However, when they finally discover the money trail leading to Zoe and the painting, the new boy may be Zoe's saviour, as he believes the pieces fall into place a little too easily.
No possibility of questioning Zoe though, as she and Jack are off to Paris, following the only lead they have- Anna.
More travelling and espionage for the duo. This time through France and Italy, but the main focus of the story is the complicated relationship between Zoe and Jack. He wants to make it work, but she's afraid it can't- considering how badly their marriage went. There were many reasons it didn't last, and the air has to be cleared before they can ever have a second chance at working.
Because the focus is mainly on them, this book has a slower pace than the last- very hectic- two. They do have a very short, definite deadline here, but there's less travelling and hiding from the law to add tension.
The ending is suitably genre-savvy, full of warm fuzzes and dramatic revealing of emotions. Mostly, this book is a wrap-up to complete the series. The ending is still open to additions, and Zoe is awfully good at attracting unwanted attention, so though the trilogy has ended, the duo may return for further adventures. As I said, this is just a wrap-up mainly, with even Sato getting his own very mini arc. There are a a few tiny threads left dangling, but nothing important or overly relevant.
By now you know what to expect plot-wise, assuming you've read the first two. If I had to add a criticism, it would be the villain. In the previous books, the villains were threatening and intimidating, as well as being major parts in the stories. In this one, while the villain is named, he is only in the book for a few pages at the end, and certainly never seemed that dangerous- despite the threats and obvious capabilities.
On a small side note, the missing Monet painting is based on fact. The painting was stolen from the Chacara do Ceu Museum in 2006 in Rio de Janeiro during Carnival. Other pieces were stolen along with it, by artists such as Picasso, Dali and Matisse.
In terms of ending the series, this one doesn't end the usual way- with a big finale. As I mentioned before, it wraps everything up, focusing more on conclusions that attention-grabbing. Both methods works- as long as they are done well, so no complaint from me with this ending.
Overall a fun series, not necessarily suspense- more of a cozy mystery- based on fraud more than murder. There may be 'bad', but it's more shenanigans than danger. Mystery with pleasantness.
In terms of the book alone, this was my least favourite of the series, but that by no means means it's bad, just that the others are better- in my opinion any way. They had more tension and more energy. If they're an all out sprint, this one is more of an amble.
In terms of the series as a whole, I would give it 4 stars. It was enjoyable, had entertaining characters and beautiful scenery- even if the plots started to become a little far-fetched as the series progressed. A perfect read for when you want something fun and quick, and don't want anything too serious.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the author. This is not a sponsored review. All opinions are 100% my own.