art · book review · lost art · mystery · original plot

Book Review – Lost Children

by Willa Bergman

A celebrated painting, the Portrait of the Lost Child, has been missing for over a decade. Eloise Witcham is commissioned to find it, but if she does she will have to confront a past she thought long behind her and face up to the dark fears that still haunt her dreams.

A stylish, intelligent, contemporary thriller set in the secretive world of high end art.

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My Review

Art, history and a very clever mystery – Could this book be any more “up my street”? I seriously doubt it.

Despite what might be for some a slow start, I loved the time the author spent to lay the foundations for this story. With a particularly addictive writing style, she had me hooked.

The background specifics of the main character’s childhood in France – and what she and her mother and brother subsequently had to do – set the scene beautifully (or should I say set the scene perfectly for misdirection LOL) , and it was no surprise that Eloise (Elle) went on to work in the industry of finding lost art and antiquities, after all she had been surrounded by beautiful pieces for years.

At times, it was as though I were in the midst of an art history lesson, with sumptuous details about the painting at the centre of the story, and its fascinating history.

And then, wham! Elle is commissioned to find the Portrait of the Lost Child for an unidentified buyer. Why choose her? She’s not the most senior within her department, but she does have a good track record. However, it soon becomes apparent that she has a particular association with the painting, and finding it before others do becomes vital if she is to keep her family’s secret from getting out.

They say you always have a choice. But what is my choice here? The choice between hurting the ones I love, or helping the ones I hate

Eloise (Lost Children)

From here on, the pace picks up dramatically and it becomes addictive reading, being both informative on the art front and insightful on the personal, family front. Can she find the painting before competitors within her field? And then what? Hand it over and risk exposure to something that could have dire consequences for her family, herself included.

Without disclosing any spoilers, let me just say this is an original and inventive mystery with an extraordinary ending that is both dramatic and satisfying.

My thanks go to the author and Rosie’s Book Review Team for my e-copy of this, which I have reviewed voluntarily and honestly (and loved every minute of it!)

As always,

art · Casualty of Court · cosy · crime · culture · Europe · food and drink · lost art · mystery · pets · The Blackleaf Agency · The Fifth Wheel

The Blackleaf Agency

I’ve been writing a lot recently about the characters of Casualty of Court, but you may have noticed it’s part of a series. Don’t worry if you missed that – I’ll be banging on about it quite a lot from here on 🙂

The Blackleaf Agency Series.

The Fifth Wheel (creatively titled as Book 0 in the series) is the prequel, and sets up the story for the court trial in Casualty of Court (Book 1). However, that is just the start. (I know, starting at 1, it’s a genius move, isn’t it? So under-done 😉 )

You see, Book 1 only introduces the reader to The Blackleaf Agency.

The first case for the newly qualified Raven and her business partner, Fern, happens in Book 2:

Heirlooms & Heiresses.

Are you still with me?

In H&H, The Blackleaf Private Investigations Agency is employed by the local hotelier, initially to root out the culprit behind a series of petty thefts occurring in the hotel. However, before Raven even checks in as a mystery guest, a bigger case unravels. A guest reports a painting has been ‘stolen’ from her room. The thief, however, is known to her and she seeks The Agency’s help in recovering it – from her brother.

What transpires is a sibling dispute over an inheritance.

Proving the value and the provenance of the artwork takes the new investigators to The Netherlands, where links to WWII reveal the painting has both historical and cultural worth.

H&H is a cosy mystery filled with humour and intrigue, set in beautiful locations in the UK and The Netherlands. Naturally, there’s some tasty food and a pet in the mix – well, it wouldn’t be a cosy without them, would it?

While the art-related story covers the “Heirloom” element of the title, another case awaits the agency back at the hotel – one with personal ramifications this time. This is where the story picks up a thread from Casualty of Court, reintroducing familiar characters and a case of child abduction (the “Heiress”). (Spoiler alert! Not really – I’ll not going to say any more of this here – at least, not until CofC has been released)

I’m three-quarters through writing this book, and am planning Book 3 as I write this.

Again, it will have an arty theme and will be set in more stunning European locations.

Druids & Drachmas

D&D sees The Agency investigating a case surrounding an architectural dig in Greece, and there’s an event going on in Ireland that might just add an extra zing of romance to this book.

This one is in the very early stages, so I can’t tell you any more (well, I could, but then I’d have to kill you – and then I’d have no readers!)

Wondering why I chose to write a series?

(I thought you’d never ask!)

Well my interest in art and culture crime was piqued after I did a course on the subject online – and there really is no end to the possibilities that such a theme can conjure up. The characters from The Fifth Wheel – initially just a short story for an anthology – got under my skin and I didn’t want to say goodbye to them. So, the idea of putting my imaginary friends into the fascinating world of art crime and mixing in my love of European countries and culture took root. Hey presto, the rest is pure fiction 🙂

I hope you stay around and grow to love them too. You can sign up to my newsletter from the sidebar – then you’ll never miss another second. Go on, you know you want to.


Thanks for reading 🙂

Casualty of Court is available to pre-order now as an ebook, releasing March 21st 2018. Click here to view on Amazon

In the meantime, you can read The Fifth Wheel – A Prequel now and find out how it all began.

If you want to catch up on my Character Interviews, here’s the first one.


cursive · handwriting · letters · lost art · technology

Handwriting! – I remember that!

Is it a thing of the past?

I was taught “joined up” writing at school and would happily scribble away in my diaries and notebooks. It was like therapy, not that I knew that then, but now with the benefit of wisdom (!!) and hindsight I can see that it was a form of expression. I couldn’t draw or sing and my lack of coordination meant that sporting achievements did not come my way, but I could write. I had a proper fountain pen, no cartridges for me. It was a thing of beauty, a Sheaffer pen, silver and shiny, with an elegant nib and a cap rimmed in gold (plate obviously). I would fill the ink chamber, squeezing life into my pen and then off I would go, blotting paper (remember that?) at the ready. 

Now don’t get me wrong, I was not holed up in my bedroom, isolated from the world. I spent summers playing by the canal, getting dirty and just having a laugh with my friends, but the cold winter evenings were just as much fun. Imagination was my greatest companion and just being able to read and write meant I was never bored.
Then when I went to “big” school, I started to learn foreign languages and the new letters, accents and structures got me hooked very early on. This was my form of art and writing it was just as much fun as speaking it. Especially when I realised that my parents didn’t understand what I was saying or writing. Finally, I knew something they didn’t. The power rush was immense.
But it wasn’t just writing those notes that made my day, it was also receiving letters from pen-pals around the world. I had pen-pals in France, Germany, Belgium, Sweden & Spain. Each week I would get a letter in exotic handwriting, so very different from my own, with  colourful new words and we would all practise our language skills, sharing stories and comparing lifestyles and customs. The time came to call my friends up on the telephone. We would plan the date and time of the call, nothing was as instantaneous as it is today.  I would sit in the hallway at the telephone table (isn’t that what we all did in those days?) and dial countless numbers until the phone was answered and an unfamiliar accent would bombard me with the fastest speech I had ever heard. Afterwards I would relate the whole story to my defenceless family, no doubt with the odd embellishment and then would rush off to pen my next letter.
Where did it all go wrong? The technological advances of the last 20 years have all but wiped the teaching of cursive handwriting off the curriculum. Keyboarding is now the trend in many places. When was the last time you wrote or received a hand-written letter? I email a few of those very same pen-pals now, sending photos instantly and not waiting weeks for a reply.
My handwriting these days has suffered too. My scribbles are exactly that – scribble! Often illegible to anyone else, even to me on occasions. My notebooks are just “to do” lists and my laptop is king. My messages are short,  peppered with “lol” and emoticons and everything is just too quick. Whilst I fully embrace the wonders of technology and confess to being a passionate geek, now and then I remember how much simpler things were.
The beauty of handwriting, practising my name, again and again, on the back cover of my notebook, mastering the signature which would ultimately be mine. Many experts say that the process involved in acquiring a fluid style of  ” joined up” writing is like Pilates for the brain. I guess my brain is no longer getting the workout it deserves and that is a great shame. It probably explains how I can waffle on forever and ever about nothing in particular…..