Evolution of a Novel – Part 3 – The Crime & A Giveaway

I have a both a shoebox and computer folder full of potential crime ideas for future novels. The idea of investigating Art Crime was sparked by a newspaper article about Alain Lacoursière, a Montreal police detective who sought to combine his passion for art with fighting crime. He enrolled in an art history course and began collecting catalogs from art auctions, as well as reports of stolen art.

His first “buy” was an antique tapestry stolen from NY, which he “bought” at auction for $195,000. Of course, the money never exchanged hands. He reported the find to the FBI who recovered the tapestry and in return wrote a letter to the detective’s boss telling him how valuable his work is.

Art 7

And so began one of the top art-theft units in the world. The FBI estimates that the international black market in art is worth about $6-billion a year, while Interpol ranks art theft as the fourth largest criminal enterprise after drugs, money laundering and weapons.

It sounded to me like a great springboard for a story. And when I boarded our Alaskan Cruise and saw the art gallery and information about the on-board auctions, I knew my cruise story was the one I wanted to work it into.

Art 5

Recovery rates of stolen art are pathetically low, which makes it a wonderful niche in which my hero detective can shine.

Through my research, I also discovered the biography of the founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, Robert K. Wittman. I devoured the descriptions of his exploits going undercover to rescue stolen treasures around the world and gleaned more ideas than I could possibly use in a short romantic suspense.

The book also gave a fabulous glimpse into the potential psyche of my hero.

So…while aboard the cruise, I visited my first ever art auction.

On Board Auction

Only a couple of pieces of the many displayed actually sold, and so began my musing of how my unscrupulous gallery owners might use such a venue to smuggle something more valuable or “pay” for something else. I literally had dozens of ideas of how I might integrate it into the story.

Of course, you’ll have to read Perilous Waters if you want to find out which idea I incorporated.

While many art thefts are crimes of opportunity, after which the thief waits for the crime to be reported and then either attempts to claim the reward or sells it on the black market, others are well-planned and the art may be used as collateral to fund other criminal enterprises such as drug and arms deals of organized crime.

And the art might be stolen from anywhere from a museum to a private collector to an archeological dig.

Or from a cruise ship. Maybe. 😉

All of the photos in this blog were taken during my cruise. Art was displayed throughout the ship.  

Art 3 Art 2

 The pieces pictured below are of the variety I envisioned my heroine most appreciating of her mother’s former work, heart-warming depictions of carefree childhood…what she once enjoyed, before her mother became famous and Jennifer’s idyllic world turned upside down.

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 Your Turn:  What is your favorite style of art or artist and why?  Think about what you might put on a wall or shelf in your home or office if money were no object.  😎 (Scroll down past giveaway & tags to find the comment box)


To celebrate the release of Perilous Waters (available now from Harlequin.com and coming in April to stores everywhere), I’m hosting a

Giveaway For All,

even if you’ve already received Perilous Waters through the Love Inspired Suspense subscription service:


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Interested in writing romantic suspense? Join me Tuesday at Seekerville for my how-to post.

I’m also delighted to be interviewed at an Australian blog this week–booklovers1


  • I guess my favourite art would have to be wildlife. So if money was no object I would get anything to do with giraffes and elephants as those are my favourite animals.

    • Oh, what fun, that suits my fellow author’s LIS April release Deadly Safari by Lisa Harris. 🙂

  • Hi Sandra,

    Loved this inside scoop. I remember you talking about your Alaskan cruise and when I read Perilous Waters I kept giggling over the thought of you spending your lovely vacation time plotting murder and mayhem. 🙂 I bet holidaying with you isn’t boring.

    You know, if money was no object, I’d do a couple of things. One, buy original art from my favourite picture book authors — espeically Patricia Polacco. Love her books. And I’d support my local artists and attend local shows and fesitvals and buy up whatever strikes my fancy. I’m not big into name brand anything, including high end artists. Oh — and buying art and sculpture form Ten Thousand Villages which supports local economies in third world countries. And there’s a great art studio in my town that has art classes for adults who are developmental disabled. They sell their art to fund the program. I’d buy tons of their stuff.

    Oh — and since money is no object — I’d buy a mansion so I would have a place to display my art. 🙂

    • I love that when you dream, Kav, you dream BIG!!! I love your idea of picture book artists. It so suits your job as a librarian. My agent, btw, Steve Laube, just posted a blog titled “Hug a Librarian” so if you’re feeling under appreciated, hop over and check it out. 🙂 And sending you a big cyber hug.

      I love shopping at Ten Thousand Villages. If my hubby had his way, he’d be snatching up the sculptures of elephants and giraffes. 🙂 I favor the carved boxes and fine glass figurines… except for the thought of keeping them dusted. 🙂

  • My favourite art has to be colourful. I like watercolour as I paint in watercolours but I also like other media too, especially mixed media. We have south west paintings here in AZ and snow scenes in Haliburton. Maybe I should switch them. lol:)
    Thanks for the great contest.

    • Ooh, you’re in AZ for the winter? Lucky woman! Yes, I think switching the paintings would be fun!

  • Fun post, Sandra! 🙂 I would never think of an art auction being held aboard a cruise ship (but then, I’ve never been on a cruise, LOL). That’s great that you were able to get so many ideas from seeing art displayed on the ship.

    My very favorite paintings are of lighthouses and cottages. So…if money were no object, 😉 I’d purchase some lovely lighthouse paintings and a few Thomas Kinkade paintings (love those cottages he’s painted—especially the ones near a small river). So soothing!

    Thanks for sharing this with us, and blessings on your day. 🙂
    Hugs, Patti Jo

  • If money were no object I would one have more wall space and I would hire a famous artist to do portraits of my children and grandchildren and of our cabin

  • Hi Sandra,
    Thanks so much for the opportunity to win Perilous Waters!! I LOVED Fatal Inheritance.
    It’s amazing where our ideas come from! Looking forward to reading many more of your books 😀

  • If money were no object, I would LOVE to shop art and find pretty things to put on my walls. As it is, I’ve never given art much thought, so I’m not sure what kind of art I’d prefer. It would be fun to pick some out! Thanks for the chance to win your book!

    • I know what you mean, Jennifer. We were sightseeing today and came upon this quaint little town ( a new one made to look quaint) and it’s the kind of place I could imagine wandering through shops to decorate a home if money were no object. 🙂

  • Actually my favorite art is anything my mom paints. She is really very good! I can’t wait to read your book! Anything story about an Alaskan cruise has got to be good!

    • Yes, it’s funny the freelance editor who did the line edits had many on many cruises and after reading my book she said, that it made her want to go another. 🙂 I think it’s great that you favor your mom’s paintings best of all!

  • I was an art major so there are so many different styles of art I’m in love with! I think my first purchase would be The Seamstress by Joseph Rodefer DeCamp.

  • Welcome to Seekerville! Great to meet you and find we have a lot in common. 😀
    This is a terrific story idea and allows the reader to vicariously travel with you. Good job!

    I don’t have a favorite type of art but tend to like the Impressionists and the Plein Air style, but also enjoy realistic paintings/drawings.

    As an author with illustrations in my books, I had to really answer this question and decide what would be BEST for the stories. It’s been a lot of fun to see the reactions of our readers too. 🙂

    Thanks for sharing this info with us. I have learned quite a bit today!

    • KC, you bring up a great point about illustrations. I remember at a conference last year, speaking with an aspiring writer who planned to self-publish and she showed me a mock up of her bookcover that she’d had done and I assumed it was a youth book 8-12 for boys based on the front cover illustration. It was an adult romance. So…we went around and asked a dozen people based on the cover and title what kind of book they thought it was, and pretty much everyone thought it was for a younger male audience. It was an eye-opening exercise for her. So is May the star of your books? I’m sorry I called you May in my reply on Seekerville!!

  • My choice of artwork centers around animals. I would have more “Noah’s Ark” animal art, along with many more works of dogs.

    • Oh, we have a fabulous artist that I went to school with, Karen Hagerman, who does awesome paintings of dogs. Your mention of Noah’s ark brought back fond memories of how I painted my kids rooms years ago…through the magic of an overhead projector. 🙂

  • There is so much great art that I seem to love whatever I’m looking at right then. 🙂 My daughter was looking at a painting of Grandma Moses in her history book this morning. I loved it! Looking forward to reading your book. The cruise ship setting fascinates me!

    • Yes, the more I “paint” pictures in my stories, the more I appreciate the variety in art and the emotions they evoke and stories they tell etc. 🙂

  • I like watercolor paintings. My favorite are by my sister who has won awards for her work and sold several and by Patrick Seslar.. I have some of hers along with some of mine. I paint with watercolors and acrylics.
    I was always in awe of writers who could paint with words.

  • Very interesting indeed, Sandra. I really enjoy antique art such as Renoir. I also like the art of a good photographer. My family tells me I have such an eye, but I love the “pictures” I see in nature.

    • Oh, and do you zoom in on things in nature for very unusual pics. My daughter recently took up photography and has started doing that. It is so cool!

  • I love the description how you came up with the ideas for the book. My favorite art would be landscapes. And thank you for the giveaway!

Great to "see" you here today! I look forward to reading your comment.