Set in the coastal Maine city of Portland, THE DULCIE CHAMBERS MYSTERIES show the urban side of Maine through the eyes of museum director Dr. Dulcinea Chambers and Portland Police detective Nicholas Black. With a doctorate in art history from Oxford University, Dulcie has seen much of the world, but is a Maine girl at heart. Nick hails from Boston’s blue bloods and was groomed for a career in law, but turned his back on the family firm to stamp out crime instead. Joined by Dulcie’s brother, a confirmed bachelor and local tour-boat operator, as well as the wisecracking veteran detective Adam Johnson, they discover that the small city of Portland harbors some very big secrets.
Dr. Dulcinea Chambers has a lot on her mind. She's just opened a new exhibit of Winslow Homer watercolors at the Maine Museum of Art where she's the chief curator. The exhibit will be complete when the museum's director, the urbane Joshua Harriman, buys the final piece at auction. But when Dulcie discovers a body where the painting should have been, she's one of the primary suspects. Portland Police Detective Nicholas Black is on the case but finds he is less than objective when it comes to the attractive Dr. Chambers.
As a native, Dulcie is firmly rooted in Maine but has risen to the top of the museum world quickly. She's confident in her work but not in her skills at a cocktail party. She'd much rather be at home with a glass of red wine and a book. Nick grew up in the socialite-filled and privileged world of Boston's elite, groomed for a career in law. He jumped ship, much to his family's horror, and chose the life of a police detective instead. He hasn't looked back and they won't forgive him.
Piecing together clues while continuing to run a museum is not easy for Dulcie. When an attempt is made on her life, Nick knows that the situation is dire. Yet he has little experience with the art world, and must rely on Dulcie’s knowledge and intuition. The missing painting must be the key, if only Dulcie and Nick could understand how.
Detective Nicholas Black has cause for concern. He's investigating the suspicious death of a young woman whose body has just washed on shore in full scuba gear. Normally it would simply be a case of drowning, yet along with this particular body is a stolen Vincent van Gogh painting in a watertight tube.
To further complicate matters, the phone number of Dr. Dulcinea Chambers is written on the dead woman's hand. As the new director of the Maine Museum of Art, Dulcie is already busy negotiating the sale of one of the museum's pieces with a wealthy collector. When Dulcie learns that she's a chief suspect however, she has no choice but to help with the investigation. Dulcie finds herself diving in to solve this mystery as her relationship with Detective Nicholas Black also reaches new depths.
Dr. Dulcinea Chambers is honored to have the esteemed British artist Logan Dumbarton as a guest at the Maine Museum of Art. The abstract expressionist painter has come all the way from London to teach a master class. His students, a group of talented local artists, are initially in awe. However, the eccentric artist is accompanied by an entourage that is proving less than ideal. His stunningly exotic wife Isabel is a constant distraction with her incessant whining, while Linda, Logan's ever-efficient sister and business manager, does nothing but placate her brother's whims. To make matters worse, Logan seems to vacillate between annoyingly sniveling and irritatingly egocentric at any given moment.
Within a week the entire class loathes him. Is he really worth all of this trouble? Somebody doesn't seem to think so, and it's up to Dulcie to find out who. But she'll have to team up with Detective Nicholas Black once again, and at the moment their relationship can only be described as fragile.
While assembling works for a new exhibit featuring the often unusual genre of Outsider Art, Dr. Dulcinea Chambers encounters an enormously talented and equally troubled young man, Xander Bellamy. An autistic savant, Xander has not communicated with anyone for several months since his father was sent to prison for the murder of Xander's domineering grandfather. When the police had originally thought that Xander was the murderer, Xander's father quickly confessed. Was he simply trying to save his son from being committed to an institution for the criminally insane?
Detective Nicholas Black thought the case was closed until Dulcie came to him with compelling evidence that the real killer still could be at large. Xander's battle-axe aunt has come to live with him and, along with long-time family housekeeper Giselle, they see to his needs. But is there more to them than meets the eye? Meanwhile Dulcie seeks to see inside Xander's mind with the help of psychologist Dr. Raymond Armand. However, the ambitious Armand has other ideas about the lovely Dr. Chambers and is about to give Nicholas Black some competition when it comes to her affections.
Dr. Dulcinea Chambers' old boyfriend, the adventurous, fun-loving, and decidedly good-looking Brendan MacArthur, reappears with a unique gift for the Maine Museum of Art: a very old bottle of wine, one of several that he found in a shipwreck while scuba diving in Maine’s cold Atlantic waters. With museum attendance low during a particularly brutal winter, Dulcie knows exactly what to do. The museum will host a wine tasting as a fundraiser featuring this old vintage. But when an icebreaker busts through the pack ice in Portland harbor the day after the festivities, the crew makes a gruesome discovery. Someone from the party didn’t make it home, and instead wound up among the bobbing gray-blue sheets of ice floating from one side of the harbor to the other.
Dulcie’s knowledge of wine is needed by detective Nicholas Black as he sorts through the details of this case, but their budding relationship is also put to the test. Brendan MacArthur’s sudden reappearance irritates Nick. Does he ignore his feelings and chalk them up to simple jealousy, or is there something else far more dangerous about this Brendan MacArthur that Dulcie and Nick have yet to discover?
As if running an art museum wasn’t enough, Dr. Dulcinea Chambers now finds herself in battle with the new board of directors chair, Vanessa Rich, who is on a ruthless quest to trim the budget in any way she can. Her cost-cutting measures will begin with selling off Dulcie’s antique office furniture, much to Dulcie’s bewilderment. Detective Nicholas Black is no less perplexed when falconry expert Esmerelda Graves barges into the police station insisting that one of her prized birds has been murdered.
Ulterior motives are certainly at play as Dulcie finds that Vanessa stands to profit from the sales, while Nick learns that Esmerelda’s raptors are carrying tiny video cameras. When the seemingly disconnected worlds of these two shady women begin to intertwine, and a most certainly murdered person turns up where the dead bird was found, Dulcie and Nick need hawk-like precision to determine why… before someone else falls prey.
The Costumes of Covent Garden, a new traveling exhibit of costumes worn by the British Royal Opera, is making its debut at the Maine Museum of Art, and director Dulcie Chambers couldn’t be more thrilled, especially since the woman in charge of the elaborate display is Dulcie’s former professor from Oxford and now good friend Francine Belmont. Along with numerous trunks filled with dazzling clothes, Francine brings with her a small sewing and design staff that includes American Bella Washington, a young and talented New York design school graduate who has quickly become Francine’s primary assistant.
Opera is never a straightforward affair, however. Dulcie’s brother, owner of a successful yacht touring company and a confirmed bachelor, has fallen hard for Bella. He finds himself in competition with the exhibit’s opening gala singer Antonio who can bring down the house with his arias. Bella has her own plot twist though, as she has no interest in either of them. She is too busy with the bolts of lavish fabrics and intricate stitchwork required in her work.
Comedy turns to tragedy with a sudden death in the museum basement. Was it simply a terrible accident, or have the darker forces been at play? Detective Nicholas Black enters the stage to investigate, but in scene after scene he is unable to move that plot forward. Yet, while the chorus is silent for Nick on the questionable death, they’ve clearly begun singing on the matter of love. He and Dulcie are most definitely beginning Act II of their budding romance.
While opera conjures exciting thoughts of theatrics and song, both Dulcie and Nick are painfully aware that the literal translation of the Italian word “opera” in English is “work”. Sorting through the increasingly nefarious clues, they come to realize that in life, as in opera, a dramatic accident is almost never accidental.
Questions or comments regarding the Dulcie Chambers Mysteries can be directed to the publisher at the following address:
PO Box 6124
Falmouth, ME 04105
info (at) edmundoctavia.com
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