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on 10 June 2017
One of the best books I have ever read - a thriller / detective novel but with so much more in there about humanity and art
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on 3 February 2018
Not my kind of book
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VINE VOICEon 18 July 2005
The story is based in the art world of Europe. The most popular art is hyperdramatism, where people are the canvas. The canvases are painted daily and hold their positions, without moving, every day for 10 hours in museums or private collections. There is large demand to be canvases especially for the masters such as Bruno van Tysch and people go on training courses, take drugs to stop bodily functions and practise holding positions for the honour to become a masterpiece worth millions of dollars.
However there is a dark side to the hyperdramatic movement, with the illegal creation of ornaments where canvases are turned into everyday objects e.g. lamps, chairs, the kidnapping of children to be used as canvases and in this book the murder of some of Bruno van Tysch's finest pieces.
Although this is a murder mystery book I didn't think of it in that way. I was so absorbed in how well the hyperdramatic movement was explained and developed through the book (I could actually believe it really existed) that I very rarely thought about who the murder could be. The debate on morality throughout the book was also fascinating; is hyperdramatism cruel even though people want to be canvases, and were the victims murdered people or destroyed pieces of art.
I really enjoyed this book as the ideas were so original and I would recommend it to others to read although I'm not sure I would read it a second time. I didn't realise it was a translation till I was near the end of the book, so I think the translator did a fantastic job as the story flows brilliantly.
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on 29 July 2014
good value
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on 7 September 2007
This is a European intellectual thriller that cannot help but remind you of Umberto Eco, though not on a plot level. Written in 2000, it is set in 2006 in what was then the near-future and depicts a world where modern art has gone morally mad. People have become 'canvases', the basis for works of art, and 'painting' has become a way of psychologically and physically moulding a person artistically, so that galleries are full of posed people standing inhumanly still. The overt plot is about an art-serial killer who steals and destroys two such artistic masterpieces and is on the trail of his third. Shadowy people belonging to the Foundation of artist Van Trysch have to discover which painting is being targeted and stop the destriction - or do they?

Literarily self-conscious, the book plays with other genres, both conforming and subverting as it goes. At heart though it is a sustained meditation on the aesthetics of modern art and the limits to which it is being stretched (tortured cats? sliced up animals and humans?).

Darky comic about human 'ornaments' (people who are ashtrays, lamps, tables etc), this yet has a serious purpose of making the reader stop and think.

Having said that, it masquerades to perfectly as a serial-killer/thriller that you could eschew the art debates completely and just enjoy it as an ingenious and intelligent detective story. But that would be a waste as it's so much more than that.
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on 29 November 2007
I loved the concept of this book and loved the idea of combining what i knew would be a philosophical debate with crime fiction. I was ready for the most powerful and shocking read of my life. It was hugely, hugely disappointing. All the attempts at being shocking were in fact rather flat and I did not buy into the concept of hyperdramtism at all so found it very difficult to get into the swing of the moral debates being bantered around. I found the whole book rather self-indulgent and almost a book written for the author's own sake.

For me, there was not enough content in the book. Whilst some relevant and profound philosophical and psychological points are made, there wasn't enough meat on the bones as far as the actual crime was concerned which is supposed to be the basis of the book. So much time was spent building up the character of Clara but this didn't actually amount to anything in the end. Her view of the murders was never even explored when surely her view would have been the most importabt.

I really persisited with this book and struggled to get through the 600 pages. I was hoping the ending would blow me away and make the whole book worthwhile but unfortunately, it left me regretting the choice to have read it.
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on 23 September 2008
You have to commend the author for his startlingly original concept - "hyperdramatic art" or the use of humans as canvases actually works so well on so many levels. Intellectually, it resonates with the modern era's preoccupation with appearance and physical beauty, and it really appealed as a literary concept. A great deal of effort has been invested in depicting a society in the here-and-now where "HD" is the predominant contemporary art form and I found it remarkably easy to suspend my disbelief.
However, whilst I can appreciate the quality of the concept and the writing (and translation) I'm afraid I found the book as a whole thoroughly disappointing. In part this is because the author has perhaps taken his concept too far (from human canvases to human "ornaments" such as tables, chairs and lamps) without adequate justification/explanation.
More than that, though, is the plodding pace of the story. An astounding proportion of the book is given over to the "painting" of Clara, so much so that I was tempted to start skimming (and I truly wish I had as the irrelevance of it all gradually became depressingly obvious). At the same time, there is scarcely a character with any depth - Clara being the possible exception - and although the narrative periodically delved into their pasts and motivations it was sporadic, disjointed and hugely disappointing.
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on 5 January 2012
Extremely clever crime plot with sado-erotic undertones. The use of human bodies as art canvas to the extreme carries the story into the realms of science fiction. Whilst the translation is first class,from brilliantly written narrative, something just stops me giving this 5 stars.
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on 11 November 2004
It took me two chapters before I realised that I had completely accepted the implausable concept of hyperdramatic art. People working as canvasses and ornaments are described so well, I was caught up in a very strange world!
I bought this book looking for a good crime thriller. This is so much more. Easily the best book I've read this year
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on 19 October 2007
I came to this book with the highest expectations: Jose Carlos Somoza's earlier novel, THE ATHENIAN MURDERS, is that rare beast, a beautifully written page-turner that combines genuine thrills with agile and equally thrilling literary and historical conceit.

What happened? The Art of Murder is plodding and pedestrian. The erotic of The Athenian Murders is replaced by the offensively pornographic in The Art of Murder. Anyone who knows anything about art history is likely to throw the book aside in contempt, thereby doing himself or herself an enormous favour. The only thing that kept me reading to the end was the misplaced belief that things - plot, style, characterisation, suspense - must get better. They did not. A waste of time and a sad waste of the abundant talent evident from The Athenian Murders.
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