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Death of an Artist Hardcover – 27 Mar 2012

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In Kate Wilhelm's latest crime novel, a small Oregon town is rocked by a wheels-within-wheels case of art, fraud, and murder. Silver Bay, Oregon, a small coastal resort town with nearly a thousand residents, is home to three generations of women: Mar

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Amazon.com: 21 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Utterly predictable 17 May 2012
By Linda Pagliuco - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Kate Wilhelm's Barbara Halloway mysteries are generally edgy and suspenseful. Death of an Artist is a stand-alone novel that has no edge at all. It's pretty clear from the title who's going to die, and there's no question as to who had motive and opportunity. The plot revolves mainly around the circumstantial murder case, in which strong proof against the perpetrator is utterly lacking. That's not all that's lacking. The characters are lackluster, devoid of personality, and they are made to say such trite utterances as, "Don't try to shield me, I'm not a child". I finished the book because I wanted to know if they managed to nail the killer, but I can't say it was at all exciting.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Not great. 26 April 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I had a hard time finishing this....the setting was interesting, but the characters were flat and there was little or no suspense. There was, however, a lot of coffee drinking...this is the Northwest, after all. A big disappointment.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Not a typical formula murder mystery 5 April 2012
By 4everSLAUGHTERED - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Death of an Artist doesn't follow the typical formula murder mystery. There is not an immediate murder followed by a police investigation. The book progresses slowly by introducing characters in the small Oregon town of Silver Bay long before the actual murder occurs.

The book description gives away the identity of both the victim and suspect. The victim is Stefany Markov and the suspect is her 4th husband, Dale Oliver. I felt as if I was reading a cozy episode of Murder She Wrote until the troubled & extremely talented artist, Stefany, unleashes her foul mouth against Dale for selling her paintings. After she dies in an "accident", Dales shows up with a contract giving him the right to sell her artwork.

Stefany's widowed mother, Marnie, and medical student daughter, Van, dispute the validity of the contract and suspect Dale murdered Stefany for money. Together they seek out the help of local craftsman, Tony Mauricio. Tony is a former NYPD detective who was wounded in the line of duty and is permanently disabled. Despite his reluctance, Tony's attraction to Van leads him to investigate. Frustration gets the best of Van, compassion gets the best of Tony and they both refuse to allow Dale to get away with murder.

Much of the novel does surround Tony's enlightening investigation. Also through the story, Marnie reflects on her past with her husband and how they tried to help their troubled daughter. Marnie also reflects on how Van became a single mother and it was interesting how the lives of the three generations of women had similarities. Plus, Tony is haunted by the tragic shooting that left him disabled.

Sadly, Stefany was the most colorful and interesting character in the book. There is an immediate attraction between Van and the much older Tony, but unfortunately a romance is not woven into the story. How the problem with Dale was solved was lackluster and way too easy. Overall, the slow paced Death of an Artist contains little suspense and is not much of a mystery.

A better stand alone mystery from Wilhelm is The Deepest Water.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Thinking Person's Mystery 28 Mar. 2012
By ienjoyagoodbook - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Death of an Artist by Kate Wilhelm was hard to put down. It's the story of a family disturbed by the death of Stef, who is the mother of Van, the daughter of Marnie, the wife of Dale Oliver. Stef was also a talented artist, with beautiful works worth probably millions of dollars. Her death is determined by officials to be an accident, but Van and Marnie think it was murder.
The natural beauty of the Oregon coast is highligted throughout the mystery, making me wish I lived there to enjoy that peaceful and idyllic setting. Nevertheless, Marnie and Van are not at peace with Stef's supposed murder. They believe they know who did it, but there is no proof. Enter Tony, a retired New York city homicide detective. He has come to Silver Bay, Oregon, to also find peace. To be involved in police work again is not at all what he wants.
Did her husband, Dale Oliver, kill her? But why would he? Even if the money looked good to him, he would not be able to touch it right away...and so begins a search for motive and means. A witness places him on the phone talking while the death takes place, and that is his alibi. Slowly a picture begins to emerge of Stef's husband, a man who is not who he appears to be. But even if he is a dishonest man, how can they prove he went further and murdered his wife? There simply was no way to substantiate what Marnie and Van, and now possibly Tony, knew to be a deliberate, premeditated killing. And if it can't be proved in a courtroom, will they be willing to exact revenge themselves, a life for a life?
There is no explicit violence in this story, yet it is not quite a cozy mystery either. Expect to be drawn into the events woven into this narrative. Kate Wilhelm is an excellent writer.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A Family Seeks Justice/Vengeance for the Murder of an Artist in Wilhelm's Psychological Thriller 2 Jun. 2012
By J. B. Hoyos - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Stef Markov is an eccentric artist living in Silver Bay, Oregon. Believing that each painting is an unfinished part of herself, she refuses to allow her fourth husband, Dale Oliver, to sell them. Stef suffers a fatal fall and everyone, including her daughter Van, her mother Marnie, and former NYPD detective Tony Mauricio, believes Dale murdered her, especially when he produces a suspicious contract that Stef signed, allowing him to sell her paintings. Van, Marnie and Tony wrestle tenaciously with their consciences, each one wanting Dale dead but not having enough proof that he actually murdered Stef. As they continue investigating Dale, they increasingly uncover more of his evil scheming and grow more intent on vengeance.

Kate Wilhelm's "Death of an Artist" is a psychological thriller that will make readers ask: "Would I kill the person who murdered my loved one?" The novel, a portrait itself, explores the insecurities and fears of its main characters, each one psychologically scarred from past events. Three generations of women live in a type of self-imposed isolation along the beautiful, but treacherous, Oregon coastline; family is extremely important to them because all they have is each other. It is no wonder they seek vengeance when one of their members is murdered. Marnie has been a widow for twenty-five years; Stef has had four husbands and a multitude of lovers; and Van was betrayed by a philandering college professor who impregnated her. Fitting nicely into this land of broken toys is Tony who was crippled during a shootout that left a teenage boy dead; he has always felt responsible for his demise.

"Death of an Artist" is tame enough to be considered a cozy; however, though heart-warming and provocative at times, it lacks the trademark humor of a cozy. Also, there is not enough violence to declare it a true crime drama. Neither is it in the vein of an Agatha Christie whodunit. We know who the murderer is; however, as many of the characters are constantly lamenting, there just isn't enough evidence to prove Dale actually murdered Stef. Furthermore, I was gravely disappointed for the novel's lack of surprise twists and/or shocking denouement. "Death of an Artist" reminded me of romantic suspense because there is some romance occurring between Tony and Van despite their twenty-year age difference.

Through the character of Dale Oliver, the author makes the reader realize how highly competitive and cutthroat the art world can be. Dale is part owner of the For Arts Sake Gallery in Portland, Oregon. He's been seducing budding artists away from the gallery and taking financial advantage of them. Because of Dale's scheming, Marnie and Van are forced to have Stef's lifetime collection of paintings catalogued, appraised and insured. On a positive note, the reader learns about the different mediums used in paintings such as charcoal, acrylics and oils. Furthermore, readers will have a greater appreciation of the agony that an artist must endure before selling one of their creations. After reading about Stef's ardent determination not to sell her work, I have concluded that a great painting is like a baby that is an extension of oneself. The painting is nearly impossible to part with and it is never fully completed. Likewise, we as humans are constantly growing, never completely maturing. Even after death, we continue to influence and change the world around us.

Fans of psychological thrillers and/or romantic suspense will want to read "Death of an Artist." Like life in a small town, this novel is too slow-paced for fans of bloody, violent noir. Fans of shocking whodunits may also want to look elsewhere. However, artists and fans of mysteries involving precious artwork may want to read it. Furthermore, if stolen paintings and/or forgeries are your cup of tea, then I highly recommend the following superlative mysteries: Carson Morton's "Stealing Mona Lisa" (Stealing Mona Lisa: A Mystery) and S. J. Rozan's "Ghost Hero" [Ghost Hero: A Lydia Chin/Bill Smith Novel (Bill Smith/Lydia Chin Novels)].

Joseph B. Hoyos
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