'I don't much like working for clients. It means that I have to follow someone else's instructions, and I've never been too good at that. When those instructions came from a spirit guide at a seance, I just had to laugh. Well, you would, wouldn't you? The rather attractive young woman whose husband the spook had said I should help her to find took me on a quest that turned into a trail of lucrative antiques deals, spoiled only when the police came plodding in and I found myself up to my neck in forgeries and murders.'
A Lovejoy novel. Whilst wondering why certain dealers are bidding themselves into poverty for a fake painting, Lovejoy is invited to check whether antiques being secretly lifted from Venice are genuine. The offer is too good to refuse, but it involves him with a particularly ugly bunch of crooks.
The victim, and two other antiques dealers who also came to a sticky end, were all working the same Scottish connection that I had been cultivation, so I decided to make myself scarce for a while. Where better to hide than at the root of the problem in the wilds of Scotland? There may be nothing very Scottish about me but, when my life's on the line, I can blend into the Highlands like a haggis in the heather. It was also the best place to find out why the antiques trade down south had become such a dangerous business.
Lovejoy discovers how the lure of gold brings out the worst kind of treasure seeker when, broke as usual and earning a crust as an unlikely babysitter, he stumbles across the diaries of a painter that appear to point to the whereabouts of a fabled hoard of Roman gold coins. Lovejoy is tempted to dismiss the whole thing as a hoax, but vile threats and violent intimidation have a way of changing his mind. He sets out to unravel the clues in the diaries, with some particularly nasty characters dogging his every move.
Every antique dealer is a bit of a detective, following clues to find the trophies that pay the rent, but when Lovejoy takes on the job of tracking down a pair of duelling pistols so rare that he's not even sure actually exist, he needs all the instincts of a detective to pick his way through an unsolved crime. Along the way, he becomes convinced that the weapons do exist but that they have fallen into the hands of a vile murderer. Locating the ancient weapons seems like the least of his problems when Lovejoy then finds himself fighting for his life in a duel to the death!
Lovejoy has heard of more nutters who have claimed to be in possession of the one, true Holy Grail than he has had hot dinners. He's not too impressed with the eccentric clergyman making the latest claim - especially when the good vicar turns out to be one of the finest forgers Lovejoy has ever met. But when the vicar and his lady companion end up dead it becomes clear that someone else is after the old man's artefact. To solve the mystery and protect a precious piece of history, Lovejoy puts his life on the line and acquires a surprising new partner....
"Lovejoy - well you have to laugh."
You know things are going badly when you've been stabbed, hospitalized and arrested for a crime that, not only did you not commit, you actively attempted to prevent. Top that off with a pending appearance in court before a judge whose wife you know rather better than he does, and you start to think that visiting an ancient Irish tomb with a gang of ruthless villains sounds like a perfectly reasonable thing to do. All you have to do is to make sure that you don't end up joining the ancient Irish tomb's ancient Irish inhabitants.
When Lovejoy witnesses a car crash that turns out to be a murder - with one of his oldest antique-dealer friends the victim - he sets out on a trail of revenge that leaves him pondering several bewildering questions. Why did his friend buy up a load of junk furniture? What did he want with an old doctor's bag? Why was his friend killed? Who was trying to kill Lovejoy and - most perplexing of all - what the hell is he doing potholing through underground tunnels dodging armed hit men?
I always think that a genuine friend is like a genuine antique - you'd go a long way to find one and you'd do anything to stop one getting broken. When an Italian gentleman made me an offer I couldn't refuse, stopping my friends from getting broken meant stealing a very valuable antique. 'Somebody else has got my antique and I want it back,' was how he put it. 'Who has it?' I asked. Without a flicker of a smile he replied, 'The Pope'. If you think of the Vatican as a big church where the Pope lives, then think again.
I don't like to pack too much into an ordinary day and this one had already been pretty eventful - two arguments with women, a fight in a pub, a warning from the Old Bill and a fiasco at auction that lost me an exquisite antique Japanese firefly cage. The trouble was, somebody wanted that little gem even more than I did. It was the key that would unlock a secret they'd to anything to keep under wraps, even murder.