To Kingdom Come


 To Kingdom Come

by Claudia Riess

GENRE:   Mystery

Amateur sleuths, Erika Shawn-Wheatley, art magazine editor, and Harrison Wheatley, art history professor, attend a Zoom meeting of individuals from around the globe whose common goal is to expedite the return of African art looted during the colonial era. Olivia Chatham, a math instructor at London University, has just begun speaking about her recent find, a journal penned by her great-granduncle, Andrew Barrett, active member of the Royal Army Medical Service during England’s 1897 “punitive expedition” launched against the Kingdom of Benin.

Olivia is about to disclose what she hopes the sleuthing duo will bring to light, when the proceedings are disrupted by an unusual movement in one of the squares on the grid. Frozen disbelief erupts into a frenzy of calls for help as the group, including the victim, watch in horror the enactment of a murder videotaped in real time.

It will not be the only murder or act of brutality Erika and Harrison encounter in their two-pronged effort to hunt down the source of violence and unearth a cache of African treasures alluded to in Barrett’s journal.

Much of the action takes place in London, scene of the crimes and quest for redemption

Read an Excerpt:

The first page identified the journal’s owner and date of inception in neatly penned script: 

Andrew James Dexter Barrett
Book One: 22 March 1897 – 17 August 1897
The subject of where Book Two and beyond might have gone off to was not raised because it would have been futile and, at least for now, irrelevant. Erika carefully turned the page to reveal the journal’s first entry, thankfully in that same legible, script: 22 March, homecoming. They read on, silently. 

Hard to believe it has been less than ten weeks since the SS Malacca, cargo steamship refitted as a hospital ship, set forth for the Benin coast with me and my fellow medics aboard. It seems like a lifetime ago, perhaps because I have become a new man, or rather a newly awakened man, in the interim. 

I have learned firsthand what history books and hearsay can only, at best, inadequately describe, and I will never again shut my eyes to the indignities and injustices we self-proclaimed entitled few, heap upon our brethren: those less fiscally sound as well as those of darker skin. 

On Saturday, 20 March, when the ship pulled into Gosport, England, Father was waiting for me on the dock in top hat and frock coat, dapper as the nobleman he is. As I heave-hoed my laundry bag containing the rescued Benin treasures into our horse-drawn carriage, Father commented on its obvious weight. “What have you got in there?” he asked, with barely a trace of curiosity. “Medical books and instruments,” I answered without hesitation, realizing as I uttered the words that I had no intention of bringing him into my confidence. 

I had been getting about on my own for years and could very well have hired a carriage to take me on the sixty-six-mile journey home, but Father had been adamant about accompanying me, even though it meant that both he and his coachman must overnight at an inn to, and again from, Gosport. In retrospect, I wonder if his intention, perhaps not conscious, was to use our extensive time alone to reclaim his control over me, since he did, after all, spend a good deal of time speaking of his activities in the House of Lords and pressing upon me the certainty that I was “marvelously suited” to that rewarding life. Mid-point between Gosport and Hertfordshire, we rented rooms at the inn in Guildford, where Father and the coachman had stayed the night before. To dilute Father’s lecture disguised as conversation, I must have consumed more ale that night than I had in the previous six months. 

I awakened this morning well rested, but with a raging headache. Father must have taken pity on me because for the balance of our journey he eased up considerably on his mission to refashion me as a slightly taller version of himself. We arrived home late this evening, and Mother’s embrace and smile of relief comforted me no end. Never mind my goals in life. All that mattered to Mother was my safe return to Barrett Farms. 

About the Author:

Claudia Riess is an award-winning author of seven novels, four of which form her art history mystery series published by Level Best Books.  She has worked in the editorial departments of The New Yorker and Holt, Rinehart and Winston, and has edited several art history monographs.  Stolen Light, the first book in her series, was chosen by Vassar’s Latin American history professor for distribution to the college’s people-to-people trips to Cuba.  To Kingdom Come, the fourth and most recent, will be added to the syllabus of a survey course on West and Central African Art at a prominent Midwest university.  Claudia has written a number of articles for Mystery Readers Journal, Women’s National Book Association, and Mystery Scene magazine.  At present, she’s consulting with her protagonists about a questionable plot twist in Chapter 9 of the duo’s murder investigation unfolding in book 5; working title: Dreaming of Monet, scheduled for release winter 2024.  For more about Riess and her work, visit

Q&A With the Author

What did you enjoy most about writing this book?

Learning about a subject I knew very little about—the seizing of art and artifacts from Africa during the colonial era—and integrating what I’d learned into a contemporary story that stays true to history while taking off from it.

Do you have any other books you are working on that you can tell us about?

I’m edging in on the denouement of book 5 of my art history mystery series scheduled for release winter 2024.   (Working title: Dreaming of Monet.) It involves hi-jacked Impressionist paintings, multiple murders stateside and abroad, and features the series’ amateur sleuths, Erika and Harrison Wheatley and their encounters with the movers and shakers on the dark side of fine arts commerce.

Can you tell us what you have planned for the future?

I plan to plan: a rough plot for book 6 of the series.  But first I have to pin down the general theme—or hook.  The only certainties are that protagonists Erika and Harrison will again be confronted with another risky brain-teaser, and that at least a few of their cohorts—John Mitchell, Greg Smith, Madame D—will be brain-storming along with them.

How long have you been writing?

On and off for decades—consistently for the about the last seven years.

Anything more you would like to say to your readers and fans?

It’s never too late to start writing—or pursuing any goal, except maybe bungee jumping—in earnest.  Don’t procrastinate by composing to-do notes or New Year’s resolutions.  Sit down at the computer, turn it on and open a new document and write the thoughts that come immediately to mind.  A memory.  The kernel of a story. A patch of dialogue.  It’ll come to you.  Set aside your inner censor and let ‘er rip.  If you want to talk about it:

All four books in the art history mystery series are available through,, and at independent book stores. For bulk discount purchases, contact


Claudia Riess will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Art and history and mystery - sounds like my kind of book.

  2. Sounds like a really good read.

  3. The author is unable to post a comment, but asked us to thank the host for sharing her book, and to everyone who commented, thank you very much for stopping by!

  4. This has an eye catching cover. Sounds like a great mystery read.

  5. The book sounds very interesting. Love the cover.

  6. This sounds like a really great read.

  7. I love the cover! The colors are great!


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