Woman On Fire by Lisa Barr: A Book Review by Laura Kelly Robb

Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr is the dramatic story of a young journalist whose sole mission is to discover the whereabouts of a lost painting stolen by the Nazis during World War II. In today’s post, I am extremely pleased to welcome Laura Kelly Robb as a guest to discuss and review the novel.

Laura Kelly Robb is an author herself who has written her own mystery novel titled The Laguna Shores Research Club. She has been kind enough to pass me along a copy, and I will be posting my thoughts of that in just a few weeks. Please enjoy her review of Woman On Fire by Lisa Barr.

Lisa Barr’s historical novel has been quite favorably described and written up as “a gripping tale of a young, ambitious journalist embroiled in an international art scandal centered around a Nazi-looted masterpiece—forcing the ultimate showdown between passion and possession, lovers and liars, history and truth.”

Book Review: Woman on Fire by Lisa Barr

Review written by Laura Kelly Robb

With this thriller-style account of the pursuit of priceless art stolen by the Nazis, Lisa Barr does a great favor to the general public. Slipped in between the electric attraction of the main characters and the twisted cruelty of the villain, Barr introduces the readers to artists who aren’t household names but are vital to the history of the Holocaust.

The group of German painters dubbed “Degenerate Artists” by Hitler’s barbaric henchmen created vibrant records of the cultural tapestry of early 20th Century Europe.  Painters such as Otto Dix and George Grosz portrayed the psychic and physical damage wrought by war and social decline.  The Nazis branded their views “distorted” and claimed they suffered from Jewish influences.

Many of their works were destroyed in the war, but many survived and re-emerged. Ownership of these pieces, especially those directly confiscated by the Nazis, has often been the subject of investigation and litigation.

In Barr’s novel, a striking portrait of a beautiful young mother, the eponymous Woman on Fire, is the focus of a fictional team of investigators. Purportedly the last work of Ernst Engel, a real-life member of the loosely connected “Degenerates,” it is removed by force from a Paris gallery in 1939.

The model for the captivating woman of the painting is the martyred mother of fictional shoe designer, Ellis Baum. Knowing his cancer will soon end his life, he hires intrepid journalist Dan Mansfield and his newbie, Jules, for one last try at finding the hijacked art. The chase is on.

Barr makes the most of the backdrops of Manhattan, Munich, Paris, France, and Montana, which adds to the readability of the novel as she shifts time periods and casts of characters. She also knows how to build likeability in the characters, as with crusty Dan and lately reformed Adam. I admit, however, that the heroine Jules and the villainous Margaux speak in the same feisty tone, which makes it difficult to root for one over the other.

Despite recurring occasionally to some oft-heard dialogue, Barr builds a reader’s outrage at acts of cultural erasure by making the loss caused by such violence felt clearly and deeply.


From the author of the award-winning Fugitive Colors and The Unbreakables, a gripping tale of a young, ambitious journalist embroiled in an international art scandal centered around a Nazi-looted masterpiece—forcing the ultimate showdown between passion and possession, lovers and liars, history and truth.

After talking her way into a job with Dan Mansfield, the leading investigative reporter in Chicago, rising young journalist Jules Roth is given an unusual—and very secret—assignment. Dan needs her to locate a painting stolen by the Nazis more than 75 years earlier: legendary Expressionist artist Ernst Engel’s most famous work, Woman on Fire.

World-renowned shoe designer Ellis Baum wants this portrait of a beautiful, mysterious woman for deeply personal reasons, and has enlisted Dan’s help to find it. But Jules doesn’t have much time; the famous designer is dying.

Meanwhile, in Europe, provocative and powerful Margaux de Laurent also searches for the painting. Heir to her art collector family’s millions, Margaux is a cunning gallerist who gets everything she wants. The only thing standing in her way is Jules. Yet the passionate and determined Jules has unexpected resources of her own, including Adam Baum, Ellis’s grandson.

A recovering addict and brilliant artist in his own right, Adam was once in Margaux’s clutches. He knows how ruthless she is, and he’ll do anything to help Jules locate the painting before Margaux gets to it first.

A thrilling tale of secrets, love, and sacrifice that illuminates the destructive cruelty of war and greed and the triumphant power of beauty and love, Woman on Fire tells the story of a remarkable woman and an exquisite work of art that burns bright, moving through hands, hearts, and history.


Thank you for taking the time to read this review.  I hope everyone enjoyed it. To check out more post and her new novel, please visit Laura Kelly Robb’s personal website and author page: www.laurakellyrobb.com


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