It was recently reported that the IRS claims overevaluation of art work has led to more than $100 million in exaggerated claims in the past two years (Los Angeles Times). The news was no surprise to bestselling author Elizabeth Lowell -- who was researching this crime trend before it hit headlines and features a riveting "case study" of this racket in Blue Smoke and Murder an enthralling new thriller.
Lowell, who has a keen eye for discovering emergent crime trends before preliminary arrests are reported in the news, has 30 million copies of her novels in print. The New York Times bestseller says she found the scandalous art appraisal topic, "irresistible," reasoning, "I have a criminal mind but not a criminal heart-when I see piles of money being spent on the word of one paid expert or another, then see more piles of money being kept through donating expensive art in lieu of paying cash taxes, the possibilities for profit and chicanery are what immediately draws my attention."
But art fraud is just the most recent crime that Lowell has tackled with her novels, which feature St. Kilda Consulting, a shadowy investigative force. Lowell's St. Kilda is a multinational company whose purpose is to help people when governments can't-or won't-get the job done.
The author explains, "The idea for the corporation came from reality. There are many civilian businesses that specialize in ransoming kidnap victims all over the world, or providing military training, or international business intelligence, etc. It was just a matter of looking at the possibilities and then inventing a fictional company."
Innocent as Sin (Avon, On Sale 4/20/08, ISBN: 9780060829841, $7.99) now out in paperback, features St. Kilda Consulting on the hunt for a transnational criminal who specializes in the trade of African "conflict" diamonds.
Lowell says, "The core theme of the St. Kilda Consulting books is the fragility of social order in an increasingly chaotic world. In the 21st century, big central governments seem either to disintegrate like the Soviet Union or move so ponderously that the transnational criminals easily evade national laws. Each victory for the criminals is a loss for civilization."
Blue Smoke and Murder and Innocent as Sin are available wherever books are sold.