Friday, October 18, 2013

What we're reading: Suspense

I picked up another art-related novel (possibly because I just went on a painting holiday, so it's on my mind): This is an older (2011), stand-alone mystery/thriller by Alafair Burke (the author I discovered a few weeks ago).

Alice Humphrey has grown up as the privileged daughter of a famous film director and his leading lady. She has college degrees, but her skills are sketchy (no pun intended), and her father has taken steps behind the scenes to further her career. But after a falling out with him, his support is withdrawn, so when she loses her job at the Metropolitan Museum (possibly because he quit making donations), she flails around for awhile, unemployed.

While attending an art show, she strikes up a conversation with a businessman who says he is at the show representing a client. After some discussion of her circumstances, he offers her a job as manager of a new art gallery he is setting up. She figures it's too good to be true, and when she doesn't hear from him for a few days she writes it off as an unusual pick-up line. But he was serious, and soon, despite her initial doubts, she is the new manager of the Highline Gallery in the up-and-coming former meatpacking district of New York City.

She should have gone with her first instinct, too good to be true: A few days after the opening, she has a religious group picketing her show, claiming obscenity and child pornography; she can't get in touch with the artist or the owner; and when she arrives early one morning to meet the man who hired her, to discuss their options, she discovers that the gallery has been emptied out...except for the dead body lying in the middle of the floor. Guess who is the prime suspect?

I liked this book a lot--the premise was interesting, the levels of betrayal complex, and the ending was completely unexpected (which is always nice). But I have to warn that, as with the other book of Burke's that I read, the initial chapters of Long Gone, with three or four separate story lines running parallel to but unconnected with each other until much later in the story, made this an initially confusing read, and so it took me awhile to "bond" with the book's protagonist. It does sort itself out, however, and then the momentum is good and the story line gripping.

In addition to the stand-alones I read, Burke has written a couple of mystery series, one featuring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher, and the other, Portland, Oregon prosecutor Samantha Kincaid. Burke is a professor of law and a legal commentator, and has worked in the past as a deputy district attorney; she also has an undergraduate degree in psychology that undoubtedly plays into her crime fiction! Investigate her for yourself.
 
Note: We also own this as an audiobook.

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