Woman on Fire: A Novel
“delivers a message of hope, drawing the story full circle to focus on the timeless power of beauty and love, two forces that can outlive even the darkest situations.”
Award-winning author Lisa Barr’s newest novel, Woman on Fire, delivers a roller coaster of emotional tension and invites readers behind the curtain to peek into an international art world of “players” and cons.
It opens with a tense kidnapping in the prologue that wraps with these two fiery questions: “Why didn’t she run or scream when she had the chance? Is this d*mn painting worth her life and those of the people she loves?”
And there you have the premise of the story. Protagonist Jules Roth is a budding journalist whose top-secret assignment comes with significant risks. Her goal? To locate artist Ernst Engel’s most famous painting, “Woman on Fire,” an expressionistic work that was stolen by Nazis more than 75 years earlier.
Now that world-renowned shoe designer Ellis Baum has enlisted Dan Mansfield, the leading investigative reporter in Chicago, to find the painting, Dan has reluctantly turned to his new hire Jules for help.
The problem? Jules and Dan aren’t the only ones on the hunt for it. Margaux de Laurent, an heiress to her family’s millions, is a cunning gallerist who always gets what she wants. And that means she’s capable of doing absolutely anything to get her way.
Barr builds Margaux into a psychopathic character we love to hate, with phrases like these scattered throughout the book:
“She checks inside the taupe Birkin bag at her side once again: there are the pills and a gun with a silencer—if needed.”
“Margaux smiles fondly at the memory of slipping rat poison into that tight-lipped b*tch’s afternoon tea and watching her suffer. That was one of her better pranks.”
“It’s not about you, but about the money.”
“No one will miss him. This will be clean and fast.”
And, as she kills a man . . . “ Margaux feels nothing.”
Yes, Margaux is capable of doing anything to get what she wants, and right now, she wants to add “Woman on Fire” to her collection. The only thing standing in her way is Jules, our gutsy and determined heroine who will stop at nothing to prove herself to Dan.
Enter Adam Baum, Ellis’s grandson and a recovered heroin addict who happens to have first-hand experience with the evils of Margaux de Laurent. With plenty of personal reasons to find the painting (and with his grandfather’s health quickly declining), he becomes a strong side character with lots of depth.
Barr also weaves in heart-wrenching historical details about the Holocaust, including this backstory from Adam’s grandfather:
“You see, Adam. Every shoe I have ever created is to honor the memory of my mother, Anika. To never forget that walk. She held her head high as they laughed at her. And people, neighbors, and others in town who I thought were her friends threw things at her—tomatoes, garbage, even shoes. She saw me up in the window. Or maybe it was just a figment of my imagination, I don’t know . . . but in my mind, we had one moment, one last exchange. She saw my face pressed to the glass and smiled courageously. That smile told me to be brave no matter what. And then she was gone as if she never existed. I couldn’t save her. . . .”
The result? A thrilling page-turner that delivers everything from coded messages and secret knocks, to generational wounds and captivating characters. The story dives deep into the cruelties of war, the corruption of the ever-complicated art world, and the wicked ways of the powerful elite. But it also delivers a message of hope, drawing the story full circle to focus on the timeless power of beauty and love, two forces that can outlive even the darkest situations.