FIVE STRANGERS IN FLORENCE, EACH WITH A DANGEROUS SECRET. AND AN APOCALYPTIC FLOOD THREATENING TO REVEAL EVERYTHING.
A wife on the run, a student searching for stolen art, a cleaner who has lined more than his pockets, a policeman whose career is almost over, and a guest who should never have received a wedding invite. Five strangers, entangled in the forger’s wicked web, amidst Florence’s devastating flood of November 1966.
In a race against time, and desperate to save themselves and all they hold dear, will their secrets prove more treacherous than the ominous floodwaters swallowing the historic city?
Dive into a world of lies and deceit, where nothing is as it seems on the surface…
A full time author, Kirsten is a former customs officer and antiques dealer, and who has also dabbled in film and television.
Her historical time-slip series – The Old Curiosity Shop Series, has been described as ‘Time Travellers Wife meets Far Pavilions’, and ‘Antiques Roadshow gone viral’.
Kirsten released her bestselling gothic horror novel Painted in 2017, with her medical thriller – Doctor Perry, following in 2018.
Her latest thriller – The Forger and the Thief, is set in 1966 Florence, Italy, amidst the devastating floods. Kirsten lives in New Zealand with her husband, her daughters, two rescue cats.
The Forger and the Thief, an extract
I’ve chosen this extract as it highlights Stefano’s character. On one hand, he values the contents of the Florentine museum he works in, and his love for Italy’s cultural heritage is clear. And you’re given a brief insight into his family background. But the end of the chapter is almost an indictment on how we treat those people who fill the ‘menial’ roles in our world. How many people ever thank the cleaner at a museum, or at a food court, or in a mall? How many people even notice the cleaner? It’s partly due to this inescapable fact, that Stefano does what he does… And what does that say about us as a society?
It filled Stefano’s heart to see Italy’s cultural treasures on show. As he stood in the darkened reception rooms, he imagined hearing the voices of the past — plotting and planning, scheming and salivating over secrets and lies. His life was nothing like that of the families who’d lived within these walls, but he didn’t envy them their lives. His was a simple one, one he enjoyed living. He lived for art, and knew he appreciated it more than the visitors who traipsed the halls, ticking off another museum on their grand tour.
He stopped in front of a family portrait — a mother with two children, painted in the religious style with the mother stylised as the Virgin Mary; with Jesus and John the Baptist depicted as children. Reminiscent of any family, the emotion in the mother’s eyes a mirror to the love all mothers held for their children. His own mother had pressed upon him the power of art, filling their home with canvasses she’d painted or collected. Those pieces still hung in his home today, the home of his childhood. A daily reminder of how fleeting life can be and how timeless art is.
Distaste filled his mouth as he approached the museum’s newest installation — a Baroque table set with pewter tableware, including candlesticks older than some countries. The scene roped off with velveteen ropes between brass poles. They’d made him drill great ugly holes into the tiles to hold the poles in place. It turned his stomach to defile history this way. This new director wouldn’t last long. Residents were already writing angst-filled letters to the newspapers, decrying the director’s obsession with entertainment over culture. This was not Disneyland, and art was not for parading under fireworks every night.
He moved the dull candlesticks one inch to the left for better balance. Art was balance. But this balance wouldn’t last. The security guards could not watch every inch of the museum, even with the cameras the new director had installed. Stefano didn’t trust those anymore than he did the tourists. And knowing the habits of their guards, they wouldn’t keep their eyes glued to the surveillance screens. They were probably using the monitors to watch that new American TV series about a crime fighter dressed as a bat – Batman, an imbecilic idea for a television series. No, they needed to walk around, their physical presence more of a deterrent than cameras covering the exhibits. In his heart, he knew the candlesticks wouldn’t stay in situ; any moment now and they would disappear into the deep pockets of an opportunistic thief, forever lost to Italy.
A horn-handled knife lay alongside the pewter plate, time blunting its blade, but the glorious carved handle remained — a skill given over to machinery now. Stefano stepped past the velvet ropes and stroked the curve of the handle, following the lines made by a master carver long dead.
The bone felt warm under his hand, at home within his weathered palm. His pulse quickened. The knife would go missing too, if not today, then tomorrow. Stefano returned it to its place in the tableau and took a sip of his coffee, the last mouthful cool on his tongue. He shuffled from the hall and back to his workroom to await the masses and hours of answering frantic summons to clean up a spill, unplug a blocked toilet, and conduct systematic maintenance from the top of the museum, right to its hidden basement, where they stored the balance of the collection, waiting for space or a surge of interest. Eight hours of being on his feet with the glorious art the tourists came to see, but never really saw.
Carmela used to marvel at his dedication to his work at the museum, his ability to focus on the smallest detail, where even the tiniest crevice couldn’t escape his ministrations. At home he would collapse into bed, oblivious to even the largest cobwebs marching across the wall, but at work he was renowned for his fastidiousness — always the last employee to leave, mopping his own footprints as he backed out at the end of every day. Tonight would be no different.
Stefano collected eight hours worth of sandwich wrappers and paper napkins, shoving each article into a rubbish sack. For a museum which forbade eating or drinking, a mountain of rubbish associated with those activities accumulated every day. Sometimes he heard the guides admonishing a tourist for consuming food in the gallery, but only sometimes. The museum didn’t pay them enough to care. They valued the prestige of the job more than the art, infuriating Stefano. Which is why, when he reached the room with the pewter display, it was of no consequence to slip the horn-handled knife into his garbage bag, leaving it to mingle with soiled napkins and torn museum brochures. No one watched the security cameras after the crowds had left. And why should they? Everyone trusts the cleaner.