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Adam and Eve Castle—he’s an architect and she’s a psychologist—run Castle Training in Denver. He builds dioramas that resemble cutaway dollhouses where some little mannequins have met with bad ends. She writes the scripts: Were these really cases of murder or just unfortunate accidents? The cops have to put the visual clues together. But to everyone’s growing horror, genuine murders are occurring that seem to be inspired by these settings, including a man bludgeoned in his high-rise hot tub just as the Castles portrayed it in miniature. At the same time, Lily Sparks—an art conservator, former attorney, and the hero of this series—is trying to stabilize a Thomas Cole painting of a manor. Lily discovers, with the aid of a scruffy genius named Raf Feldman, that the work is not a genuine Cole after all. And Lily and her lover, Paul Reilly, are desultorily house hunting. (Is there a theme here?) At any rate, as in Kane’s other volumes, Lily, her insights doubted if not ridiculed, tries to expose the murderer. But this places her in danger of being killed herself. The author knows how to keep things moving swiftly, and readers get a good picture of hip society in Denver. And she always gives readers a little something extra. The Castle Training bit, for example, is based on real history. Frances Glessner Lee (1878-1962) devoted her life to making miniature dioramas and for exactly the forensic purposes readers see in the story. She became known as the “mother of forensic science.” As for the Cole, the audience learns why the depiction of houses would be anathema to the founder of the Hudson River School. That said, readers will occasionally find it hard to follow the subtleties of Lily’s deductive breakthroughs. Sometimes, the audience will just have to take it on faith that she is on the right track.

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