Book Tour Review: The Bruges Tapestry by P.A. Staes

Tuesday, March 26, 2013
Title: The Bruges Tapestry
Author: P.A. Staes
Genre: historical fiction, mystery
Series: N/A
Pages: 252 (ARC edition)
Published: August 2012
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 3/5

Following a 500-year-old mystery concerning a Flemish tapestry is routine work for Detective Claire DeMaere, since she's employed by the Newport Beach Art Theft Detail. But, unlike past cases, this one involves arresting Paolo Campezzi, lover to her best friend Nora. Mr. Campezzi is a distant descendant of a Florentine Duke, who commissioned the tapestry in 1520 in Bruges, Belgium. Claire finds that she must explore the true provenance of the tapestry, free Mr. Campezzi in order to re-establish her friendship with Nora and depend on the expertise of a textile expert she doesn't know. 

All this must occur in 72 hours, before the Vatican takes the tapestry back. But Claire isn't the only one with the Vatican looking over her shoulder. Claire's story intertwines with a 1520 diary by Beatrice van Hecke, the tapestry-weaver's daughter. Only Claire can discover the secret that is woven in time.

The first novel by author P.A. Staes, The Bruges Tapestry is a tale of resentment, revenge, and abuse of power woven with care and detail. A rather short novel at only 250+ pages, this historical mystery interweaves two alternating POVS: that of Beatrice van Hecke, a young woman in Bruges during the early 16th century, and of Claire DeMaer, an art detective in present-day California.  Both characters narrate in first person past tense, but there are more substantial parallels between their very different lives, as Claire discovers as she races to prove the provenance of the eponymous tapestry at the heart of both women's stories.

Corruption, conspiracy, lies and deception all play their part in each respective timeline. Beatrice's tale of woe is even sadder than Claire's, for as a woman in the sixteenth century Europe, she controls nothing in her own life. Her quests for vengeance and punishment of the men who ruined her life only endangers her further and keeps her ultimate goal out of her reach. Claire is more active in her story - she's an empowered and smart detective, one who will do what is right even if it costs her a dear friendship. Neither character is the most dimensional I've ever come across, but Staes makes each distinctive and compelling as the novel carries on. 

The author casually mentions further historical fiction mysteries to come, and while I wasn't in love with The Bruges Tapestry,  I will be sure to seek out her future efforts and see how her talent matures.I had fun with this - it's a quick, fast-paced story with creative villains and plot, I just wished for more depth for everyone involved, from Nora to Marie to the antagonists of each timeline. A short read, but not without merits, P.A. Staes has a strong start for her new series.

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