Review number: 442
Set in the American midwest in the second half of the nineteenth century, The Limner is a crime novel in a loose sense. Lucius Applegate is a painter (limner is an old word for portrait painter) who makes his living travelling around the country painting small portraits for whatever the sitter can afford. Staying with wealthy farmer Hans Eisner while painting his beautiful daughter Letty, he gets up one night to find Eisner's body, just before Letty bursts in on him, asking him to flee with her. Though neither actually killed the old man, both think that the other did so, and the natural conclusion of the law officers investigating was that they must have done it together.
Generally well written, The Limner does occasionally strike the odd wrong note. Small problems with the plot - at one point a balloon journey needs to be more predictable than they can be, for example - lead to a rather unsatisfactory ending. The background is less rural in feeling than it makes out, the general atmosphere not as wild as some details imply, making it a less than convincing evocation of the American midwest at the time.