‘Even Better Than The Real Thing?’ is based around the life of Eve Cole, a single girl and artist who specialises in painting fake Van Goghs. An interesting, and very original concept which had me intrigued from the outset – especially with the tantalising prologue which is set ten years in the past and sees two men selling a painting in clearly dubious circumstances.
Eve’s life is complicated: her father died a few years before we meet her and Eve and her mother are now looked out for by their father’s good friend, Robert. Eve lives in a half-built apartment block, sharing her building with the Party People downstairs and Larry, an ex-con (albeit a very handsome one) who lives in the apartment opposite hers.
When Eve is commissioned to paint an original piece for a wealthy art collector, she starts to doubt her ability – she only deals in fakes, right? But this crisis pales into insignificance when ten million euro is discovered in one of her late father’s bank accounts.
Under pressure to explain how this money got there, Robert confesses to Eve that he and her father sold one of her fake Van Goghs as the real deal. Terrified that she will in some way be implicated in this crime, Eve sets out to get the fake painting back – and neighbour Larry steps in to help.
Moving the setting from Dublin to Florida, where Larry discovers the painting is now held, Eve and Larry become Evelyn and Michael (a wealthy art collector and her adviser), the plot thickens as we follow Eve’s paranoia and suspicions that all may not be as it seems with Larry.
For the die-hard romantics, there is plenty of love interest in the novel, with Eve struggling to deal with her attraction to bad-boy Larry and he, seemingly, playing on her vulnerability. And who is he emailing from Florida and who is the little girl in the photo he takes everywhere with him?
I won’t spoil the ending here, but suffice to say that Martina Reilly provides a satisfying, clever, detailed, intricate unravelling of the truth behind the painting and behind Larry.
Even Better Than The Real Thing? was inspired by the exploits of the author’s favourite con artists, such as former confidence trickster Frank Abagnale (as portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio in Catch Me If You Can). This is a fresh, witty, well-plotted novel which tackles a tricky and very original subject matter extremely confidently.
Martina Reilly started writing when she was eleven years old – and hasn’t stopped since! She wrote several highly acclaimed teenage books before turning to adult fiction ten years ago. Martina lives in Ireland with her husband and their two children.