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The Secret Portrait (A Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron Mystery #1)
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The Secret Portrait

(A Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron Mystery #1)

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  223 ratings  ·  33 reviews
The Flowers o' the Forest are a' wede awa'."

Fleeing an academic scandal and a broken marriage, Jean Fairbairn has come to Scotland to work for an Edinburgh-based history and travel magazine. Writing about the Scottish national pastime of playing illusion off reality is just the quiet, scholarly pursuit she needs to soothe her burned-out emotions.

But when Jean heads for the
Paperback, 300 pages
Published April 25th 2007 by Wildside Press (first published 2005)
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3.69  · 
Rating details
 ·  223 ratings  ·  33 reviews

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Jul 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
Was super into this in the end. It took me literally weeks to get going on it; not sure if I just wasn't in the right mood, but when I originally started this, everything grated on my nerves. Maybe I just needed the mystery to kick off a bit more.

Either way, super into the slow burn of the relationship that's being developed.

I'm also not that annoyed at the more fantastical elements, although I did raise an eyebrow when they first came up, mostly because I wasn't expecting them.
This book doesn't move fast, but it is well-written and I found myself spending more and more time with my Kindle, to find out what happened next. Now I have to go figure out where to get the sequel without having to pay full price for it, eh?

Jean Fairbairn is a very likable character, bookish, clever, a transplanted American in Edinburgh, now writing feature stories for a Scottish magazine. For an article, she's gone to a very old manor house, the former home of a Scottish clan chief, which ha
Jacob Proffitt
Mar 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
This was an excellent story. I particularly enjoyed Jean Fairbairn as the magazine reporter with just a little bit extra and a past that is emotionally troublesome. I liked the slow boil between her and Alasdair (with his own troublesome past) and hope their relationship gets some further progress in future novels (heaven knows the progress in this one was small, though encouraging). At this point, you'd have a hard time keeping me from further stories featuring these characters with a rabid dog ...more
Got about halfway through and found the story exceedingly slow moving. Found it too easy to put down. I liked the setting (Scotland) and the main character was well drawn but that is about all I can recommend going for this book. Pity, the storyline sounded really good.

2/14 - I'm afraid that I still could not finish this book. I had only about 100 pages left but as the story went along it slowly ground to a halt. I tried my best to keep reading but I found it very slow going where nothing much o
Nov 13, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent writing does not go hand in hand with good storytelling. I consider gifted writing a treat. In the end, readers must be entertained: compelling scenarios, characters, flavour, a fine wordsmith... Unfortunately this book’s pacing lagged. Although always elegant or intelligently witty; she was too verbose on every page. Lapses of thought during dialogue should clarify or enhance a conversation, not interrupt its flow. Lillian Stewart Carl’s knowledge of history is exceptional and I glean ...more
M. White
Jan 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A marvelous blend of history, mystery, and a bit of the paranormal

I recently discovered this author and am so glad I did. The Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron mystery series is a wonderful blending of history, mystery, a bit of romance, and a touch of the paranormal. The plots are complex and the characters well developed and thoroughly believable. I can't wait to read more in this fascinating series.
Jan 06, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: mystery
3.5 stars
THE SECRET PORTRAIT (Mys/Para-Jean Fairbairn-Scotland-Cont) – G+
Carl, Lillian Stewart – 1st of series
Five Star, 2005, US Hardcover – ISBN:1594143072

First sentence: Jean Fairbairn sat on the stone windowsill of her office, if hardly in command then at least in admiration of all she surveyed.

Historian and half-owner in a Scottish magazine, Jean Fairbairn is visited by George Lovelace, an older gentleman at her office. He claims to have found, and shows Jean, a old gold coin. The coin is a Louis d’
Jan 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mystery, supernatural
The Secret Portrait
By: Lillian Stewart Carl
Copyright April 2005

This is the first book in the Jean Fairbairn – Alistair Cameron Mystery series. Here we meet the main character s for the first time. Jean was an academic in the US, who after a bit of trouble back home, a nice cash settlement and a divorce from the marriage that shouldn’t have been, is living in Scotland as the silent partner of a magazine called “Great Scott”.

She is visited at her office by a gentleman named George Lovelace, a ret
Mar 05, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle
Ugh. Where do I begin to list all the things I disliked about this book? The author represents the main character as a respected historian/journalist (like all things about her, the author doesn't seem to be able to make up her her mind about which it is). When presented with a mysterious gold coin that could be part of the lost hoard of Bonnie Prince Charlie she "disguises" her mission as an interview of an eccentric billionaire who is ready to launch a new computer game. While there, the man w ...more
Feb 02, 2014 rated it liked it
I came to The Secret Portrait by way of John Scalzi's big idea feature. Lillian Stewart Carl wrote a piece promoting the newest mystery in her Fairbairn/Cameron series, I was intrigued and decided to start with the first book. I hope her writing has improved as her series progressed. A somewhat heavy hand with description, featuring an over-reliance on similes, made a good portion of the book a plod. Despite a fairly engaging heroine (despite her annoying habit of thinking in simile!) and the al ...more
William Scott
Sep 09, 2014 rated it liked it
Always on the lookout for new mysteries novels, I chanced upon The Secret Portrait and decided to give it a try. Set in the modern Highlands of Scotland, the scenery immediately lends itself to an uncomfortable sense of danger and tragedy. Combined with a cast of suspects that were not the paper thin characters of many mysteries, it quenched my thirst for intrigue.

As stated by some other reviewers the story does seem to suffer from lag at the beginning, the device of the gold coin initially wea
Jeannie and Louis Rigod
Apr 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
This was a very interesting book. It introduces an Historian and co-owner of a History/Travel magazine by the name of Jean Fairbairn. Jean is from Texas but feels totally at home in Edinburgh, Scotland.

An elderly military man comes to see Jean with a coin that is believed to be that of a missing treasure of Bonnie Prince Charlie's.

Quickly, Jean takes off to verify and research this find. What she finds, is the body of her informant. Stuck in the manor house, Jean is living with a murderer and ca
Jan 02, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Formerly an academic, Jean Fairbairn has divorced her husband, moved to Scotland, and invested in a magazine run by an old friend. When an elderly man shows her the gold coin he's found, she heads north, to interview him and a conveniently located American millionaire who is collecting Jacobite material, both fodder for stories. But what she finds is a dead body, and a police chief inspector who seems to be able to read her mind, and who turns out to share her ability to see ghosts. A great intr ...more
This book might have been better, but it was probably about twice the length it needed to be. The main character's lusting after men, in particular a much younger one (view spoiler), and the pages and pages of "tension building" in various scenes got tedious. Also, the paranormal abilities that pretty much everyone seemed to have almost seemed tacked on - the MC and her detective buddy-soon-to-be-romantic-interest easily could have found out the ...more
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is the second book of the series that I have read, although actually the first one of the series. I am constantly impressed by the writing, which far transcends in descriptive phrases, a series mystery. My favorite line in this book was "a woman easing into middle-age as though into a cold swimming pool".
Howard Brazee
For some reason, I can read pure fantasy, but when we have what appears to be our world with ghosts, I can't finish. Too bad, as the book was interesting until the protagonist actually saw a ghost. Maybe it's because people really believe in ghosts.

Erin Richards
I enjoyed the Scotish location in the book and believe it's a good first in the series book. That being said I thought the middle began to drag just a bit and it took a bit to long for Jean and Alasdair figure things out.
Jul 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery
I have enjoyed the entire Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron mystery series. They are set in Scotland, involve history, and a restrained romance I found much more realistic than that found in many books.
Oct 31, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: mysteries
First of a great series of mysteries with light supernatural touches. It follows an American living in Edinburgh who gets involved in murder, and more, in Scotland. The first involves an American game millionare and Jacobites :)
Debi Levins
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
May have found a new favorite author

Began reading this book from a sense of boredom more than anything else, but then realized I was immersed and truly enjoying the read. May need to add this author to my list of favorites!
Feb 28, 2011 marked it as did-not-finish
Slow going, and uninteresting. Would rather watch paint dry...
Apr 28, 2015 rated it liked it
Not bad. This is the second of hers I've read. The stories are good. Nothing out of the ordinary, though.
Rebecca McNutt
Apr 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Engaging and exciting, The Secret Portrait not only gives a well-crafted murder story, but it also gives readers picturesque descriptions of Scotland throughout as scenery.
fun read. not great literature, but fun if you like Scotland and mysteries
Mar 08, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Fort William, Achnacarry, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Commando .... very familiar sites and a murder thrown in for good measure.
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Sep 10, 2011 marked it as decided-not-to-read
Recommended to Snail in Danger (Sid) by: via Lois McMaster Bujold's blog
Shelves: mystery-genre
It just wasn't really hooking me in. Also I kept questioning that modern Scots really talk in such a dialect-heavy way. But maybe they do and I'm wrong....
Mar 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mystery, kindle
Atmospheric mystery with interesting, layered characters. Richly developed.
Oct 14, 2013 rated it liked it
A bit slow moving at times but interesting of sure to scratch any Scottish itch.
Marina Sinelnikova
Oct 26, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: mysteries
Fairly entertaining - murder related to Jacobite history, though I found the description of characters and circumstances much more interesting than the solution itself.
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Author bio:

Lillian Stewart Carl's work often features paranormal/fantasy themes and always features plots based on mythology, history, and archaeology. Most of her novels take place squarely in the twenty-first century, where the past lingers on into the present, especially in the British Isles, Lillian's home away from home.

She is the author of nineteen novels so far, including the Jean Fairbairn

Other books in the series

A Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron Mystery (7 books)
  • The Murder Hole (A Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron Mystery #2)
  • The Burning Glass (A Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron Mystery #3)
  • The Charm Stone (A Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron Mystery #4)
  • The Blue Hackle (A Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron Mystery #5)
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  • The Avalon Chanter: A Jean Fairbairn/Alasdair Cameron Mystery