26 January 2021

Special Guest post by Heidi Eljarbo, Author of The Other Cipher (Soli Hansen Mysteries Book 2)


Available on Amazon UK and Amazon US

1613. Fabiola Ruber has been wed to a man she does not know and must live in a country with a new language and different customs. The memories of a lost love in her hometown Malta haunt her, and she sets out to find an artist who can do her portrait and recapture the feelings she had when she once modelled for a renowned Italian master painter.

1944. Four years into World War II, art historian Soli Hansen works with the Norwegian resistance to locate significant artwork and safeguard the pieces from the Nazis. When she finds out the Germans are after a hidden baroque depiction of a seventeenth century woman, she must muster all her courage and skills to decipher encrypted codes and preserve the mysterious art before it’s too late.

Nazi Art Theft During WWII

Writing a dual timeline novel where art is the common factor for both stories was a wonderful learning experience.

In the main storyline of The Other Cipher we get to know art historian Soli Hansen who joins the resistance effort in Oslo, Norway during WWII. She makes the choice to go all in and assist a small branch of the resistance movement called the Art Club. The dauntless members welcome Soli and her vast knowledge of art history.

But why spend the time and effort to preserve and protect art during a war?

Adolf Hitler, who was particularly interested in art, tried to earn a living as a painter during his younger years. Although his rise to fame came from other reasons than his attempt at becoming an artist, the Führer produced several hundreds of paintings and postcards. After his political career escalated, he started planning a museum of fine art to be situated in Linz, Austria. His goal was to complete the museum by 1950, but with his death in 1945, and the end of the second world war, his plan was fortunately thwarted.

Looting. Confiscation. Amazing artwork gathered in sometimes indescribable ways. Jews were deported and their valuables seized. Hitler’s soldiers hid his art collection in the Austrian salt mines and other places. By the end of the war, the Allies discovered thousands of beautiful paintings.

As I’ve read articles and accounts about Nazi art theft, I also learned that Hitler sent his men to buy artwork in France and Italy. This surprised me, as I’d always thought the Reich only stole the art. Hitler spent money he’d earned on his book Mein Kampf and other investments to buy desired pieces.

Art history was one of my favorite classes as an Art & Design major. Soli Hansen and the Art Club work tirelessly in their effort to keep important artwork out of the enemy’s hands. Like me, Soli is particularly fond of Renaissance and Baroque paintings.

I have traveled throughout Europe and visited art galleries and old churches. I also spent five years living in Austria, not far from Hitler’s birthplace. During the ongoing pandemic, I’ve signed up for virtual art presentations. With all the technical help nowadays, it’s easy to learn from your own home.

The second story told in The Other Cipher is about Fabiola, a young mother in Antwerp at the beginning of the seventeenth century. She’s Italian, a Jewess, and she longs for the companionship of a master painter who painted her portrait when she lived in Malta.

Although I can still study art history from home, I must admit I look forward to traveling to Rome again to see works by Caravaggio in the churches and observe with my own eyes the magnificent works by Rubens in his house in Antwerp. The chiaroscuro technique described in the book is prevalent in the paintings of these artists.

To get a fulness of the story about Soli Hansen of WWII and Fabiola of the Baroque time period the Soli Hansen Mystery Series follows both of these women and their passion for art.

Heidi Eljarbo

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About the Author

Heidi Eljarbo is the bestselling author of historical fiction and mysteries filled with courageous and good characters that are easy to love and others you don't want to go near. Heidi grew up in a home filled with books and artwork and she never truly imagined she would do anything other than write and paint. She studied art, languages, and history, all of which have come in handy when working as an author, magazine journalist, and painter. After living in Canada, six US states, Japan, Switzerland, and Austria, Heidi now calls Norway home. She and her husband have a total of nine children, thirteen grandchildren--so far--in addition to a bouncy Wheaten Terrier. Their favorite retreat is a mountain cabin, where they hike in the summertime and ski the vast, white terrain during winter. Heidi's favorites are family, God's beautiful nature, and the word whimsical. Find out more at Heidi's website https://www.heidieljarbo.com/ and follow her on Facebook and Twitter @HeidiEljarbo

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