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Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Art of Secrets, written by James Klise. Workman Publishing, Thomas Allen & Son. 2014. $20.95 ages 13 and up

"Look, I mean, it's unintentionally hilarious; one chapter includes actual telephone scripts to follow when sharing unpleasant news with parents. There is, of course, no script in this whole book to use when telling an immigrant father, whose home has been lost in a fire, that valuable artwork, which is to be sold at auction to benefit him and his family, has gone missing."

This is a book that kept me reading far into the night wanting desperately to know about the Kahn family, their future, and the community who rallied round them to help them find some stability following a devastating fire.

That fire, set by an arsonist, has destroyed their apartment and everything in it. When the students and staff at Saba's private school hear the news, they are quick to take action. they arrange a charity auction the likes of which most people have never seen. In the beginning, people offer items that will entice others to attend the sale. When a brother and sister find previously undiscovered artwork by Chicago artist Henry Darger's in a back lane dumpster, it is an rare and amazing triumph.

There is mystery in Saba's story. The artwork found is authenticated, insured and subsequently, stolen from the school gymnasium. As the story progresses through a series of emails, texts, journal entries, newspaper stories, official documents and interviews, you will drawn into the mystery and keen to try your hand at solving it. There is much speculation, and rumors abound. We become aware of details that point fingers at numerous suspects. Who stole the art? Will it be returned? Will we ever know what happened to it? The answers are revealed; I was totally surprised when I reached the final pages. I was totally wrong in all my speculation concerning the events...secrets, indeed!

Variety in voice and viewpoint kept me intrigued start to finish. I thought the author kept the mystery
going until the final reveal. I think that those readers who like mystery tales will find this one a
worthwhile read.

The first thing I did when I finished it was to find out more about Henry Darger so that I had some context for the pivotal event in this story. Here is a short introduction:

He is a known as a self-taught master of outsider art, and I found myself quite mesmerized by what I did learn about him.

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