Digital photographer Maggie Thornhill has been asked to do the impossible. Authenticate a Van Gogh painting, missing since World War II, by simply using a photograph. The challenge is presented to her by her long-time friend, Ingrid Rettke. When Ingrid is murdered, Maggie makes it her mission to analyze the photograph, find the painting and in doing so, track down the killer.
The photograph in question was passed down to Ingrid by her grandfather, Klaus Rettke. Maggie learns that Rettke was a key member of the German ERR, the Nazi organization appointed to confiscate art from the Jews. Obscure references in Klaus Rettke’s diary convince her that Rettke stole the painting from the Nazis.
Maggie works with homicide detective, Frank Mead, and two art experts, Emil Kahn and Henri Benoit, to track down the painting and the killer. Complicating her life, Maggie’s in the middle of a divorce, she is attracted to Mead, but also to Henri, who tries to seduce her.
She develops a software program to match certain key criteria of known Van Gogh paintings with those of the painting in the photograph. However, even using the latest digital photography methods, authentication of a painting must rely heavily on the word of experts and the provenance, or history, of the work.
Maggie heads to Paris to trace Rettke’s footsteps, hoping they’ll lead to the lost Van Gogh. After piecing together all her clues, she now believes there were actually four paintings: an original and three forgeries. She begins to fear for her life when one of those copies comes to light and its owner is murdered.
Encountering deception within deception in the high-stakes art world, she peels the layers back to reveal not one, but two killers. Both art experts have killed for the painting. Now one is dead and the other intends to kill Maggie. To stay alive, she reveals that she has the genuine Van Gogh. Now she must protect the precious painting . . . and herself from the killer.