Free for All: Art Without a Price Tag

There's a kidnapped child in the plot of mystery novelist Tami Hoag's new book, The Darkest Road, which she'll be discussing on Friday at Murder by the Book. But instead of focusing on the missing 16-year-old girl, Hoag centers her story on the family that was left behind. There's the mom; she's desperate to keep the police and media on her daughter's case, but after four years with no new clues, neither is interested. An emotional wreck, the mother has become something of a persona non grata; her friends and relatives just want her to get over it already. "There's a statute of limitations on sympathy," says Hoag. There's also the missing girl's little sister. Now 16, she's the same age as her sister was when she was taken.

In an effort to start over, the two move to a small town where nobody knows their story. But almost as soon as they get there, Lauren sees the man she holds responsible for her daughter's disappearance. A free man because of a lack of evidence against him, he's followed Lauren and Leah to their new home. Is he just taunting Lauren? Or is it Leah he's after?

Hoag will be reading from and signing copies of The Darkest Road Friday at 6:30 p.m. at Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, visit or call 713-524-8597.

On Saturday, we're taking advantage of the First Saturday Arts Market in the Heights to do a little Valentine's Day shopping. The theme for this month's market is Love is in the Air, and more than three dozen fine artists and craftsmen will be offering paintings, jewelery, sculpture, and handcrafts. Among the participating artists is Brent Kramlich who will be showing his minimalistic sculpture, and Perle Amies who will have her handmade jewelery on display. Her jewelery, by the way, includes vintage elements picked up in antique markets in France.

The Market runs 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Wind Water Gallery, 548 W. 19th Street. For information, visit or call 713-802-1213.

On Sunday, we're stopping by to see the ''Alyssa Salomon: The Handmade Print'' exhibit at Houston Center for Contemporary Craft. Susie J. Silbert, curatorial fellow at HCCC, has some high praise for the work. ''I think the way she composes her photographs and titles them is poetry. I think of poetry as these few words that are supposed to evoke an emotion.''

Silbert points to one photograph, These Wild Ecstasies. It's a simple image of a man with outstretched arms. The effect is one of joy and freedom. "With just these three words and one image, she's evoked an entire experience," says Silbert. "It's a simple moment that's so full. This whole mood is created, and it's something that's very different from what I would expect looking at the component parts." The exhibit is on view from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays through April 8 at HCCC, 4848 Main. For information, visit or call 713-529-4848.

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Olivia Flores Alvarez