The House of Long Ago (Cassiopeia Vitt #4), by Steve Berry and M.J. Rose

Eight stars

Adding a new novella to their collaborative collection, Steve Berry and M.J. Rose present the fourth piece featuring Cassiopeia Vitt. This piece pulls together some interesting backstory in the life of Cassiopeia and some troubling revelations about her father. After holding onto her family villa in Spain for a number of years, Cassiopeia Vitt decides that it might be time to put it onto the market. Before doing so, she decides to have the fifteen pieces of art hanging throughout the villa appraised. While she grew up admiring the pieces, she never thought to ask their value. After an appraiser brings news that the paintings are fakes, Cassiopeia can only wonder what game her father might have been playing. Consulting with many close to her father, Cassiopeia learns that it is not uncommon for art to be copied and the fakes exhibited, but that there is a secluded location in Andorra that is sure to house the originals. When she visits, Cassiopeia discovers that the originals are no longer in the vault her father had sealed, only adding to the mystery. Cassiopeia begins to question the need to hide these pieces of art away and everything leads back to discussions about Nazi Germany. Might Cassiopeia Vitt’s entire image of her father be based on false memories? What troubles could he have found himself in and might Señor Vitt have been part of a sinister underground that confiscated pillaged artwork and kept it for themselves? Berry and Rose tell quite the tale while educating the reader throughout this piece. Recommended to those who love fiction embedded with historical revelations, as well as the reader who has enjoyed all that Cassiopeia Vitt has brought to the surface in her handful of novellas.

While I have long been a fan of Steve Berry and his Cotton Malone novels, I knew little about Cassiopeia Vitt, save for what was revealed in the stories. When M.J. Rose teamed up with Berry to offer more insight into Cassiopeia’s life and adventures, I flocked to read them. These pieces not only shift the focus on Vitt, but also add new and exciting layers of history from which the reader can learn a great deal. Cassiopeia Vitt is a wonderfully independent woman, whose ambitions shine though. However, she is also one to rely heavily on those who helped shape her, not least of which her father. In this piece, the reader learns more about the connection that Vitt had with her father and the love of art that he fostered. That it could have been built on lies and deceit is surely possible, something that leaves Cassiopeia troubled. The cast of secondary characters is well developed to offer the reader interesting insight into Cassiopeia’s issue and how it might be handled. While the story is brief, the authors use these characters effectively to flavour the narrative and keep the action moving forward. The piece flows well and the reader’s attention is easily kept, mixing history and current events together with ease while trying to piece together the fragments of Cassiopeia’s life together. With a short cameo appearance by Cotton Malone himself, there is surely room for some tie-ins with Berry’s mainstream work. As with the others novellas, this one reads easily with short and crisp chapters that are sure to pull the reader into the action quickly. I can only hope this collaborative effort continues, as it is highly entertaining and yields wonderful stories.

Kudos, Mr. Berry and Madam Rose, for your great work together. Cassiopeia Vitt has a wonderful platform for growth with these stories and I am happy to read more when you have penned them.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: