Lori Hyland shifts from wartime Berlin and occupied Paris to the streets of postwar New York in her powerful follow-on historical novel to Sign of the Aleph — a look at the Big Apple in the cultural and artistic times immediately following World War II.
Madame Jamette, former owner of Paris’ classiest, most respected brothel and one of the most heroic and bravest characters in literature, has moved to New York to open
The Gallerie 1.2.2 in Upper Harlem. Quickly, she gives the Gallerie recognition as the city’s new hotspot for art, music, and fashion — especially the impressionistic and so-called “decadent” art taking collectors by storm.
Along with Jamette is her best friend and confidant, Inspector Tourette, now working with European and American families who lost countless paintings and treasures to Nazi soldiers, thieves and hoarders. We become acquainted with some of the priceless works in Jamette’s private Gallery of Lost Souls, filled with treasures she secreted out of Paris, one step ahead of the Nazis. We’re re-introduced to Peter, the colorful, ostentatious Maître d’ at Paris’ Ritz Hotel and source of Nazi secrets, and meet Chance, the former chauffeur to a Hollywood director who covertly helped Jews escape the Holocaust. Chance now works with Jamette as a gallery assistant, along with McDougal, one of the U.S. soldiers who helped Jamette get her paintings out of Paris.
Overshadowing it all is Bruno Lohse: art thief, ruthless plunderer, henchman of former Nazi leader Hermann Göering, and now dedicated to stealing a few coveted paintings from Jamette’s private collection…and willing to kill to achieve his goals, just as he has before. Lohse assembles a team of Nazi financial experts, trained assassins and thieves and begins rolling out his plot with his team at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
With Jamette’s life and property constantly in danger, she, Lohse and Tourette play a high-stakes game of cat-and-mouse that involves the Gallerie, Jamette’s New York brownstone, high-level bankers, a Parisian cab driver, an Italian delicatessen, a German with a distinctly American name, a hidden listening device, and a former Indian Untouchable, Maya, who has emerged as Jamette’s most trusted business associate — and a young woman coming into her own.
Along the way, readers immerse into the inner worlds of Jamette and her affinity for iconic painters Egon Schiele and Chaim Soutine, in particular, and the larger art world in general. Everything around them is bathed in reflections of the New York jazz and gallery scenes.
In true Lori Hyland fashion, a story etched in elegance, sophistication, recent history, the art world and the fineries of life delivers at a crime thriller pace. The highlight is the fateful night Lohse and his team make their move on The Gallerie 1.2.2— and find Jamette, Tourette and their young associates to be far more resistant than they could have expected. The climactic scene is accentuated by a final mic-drop moment involving Tourette and Jamette.