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The Killing Art    by Jonathan Santlofer Amazon.com order for
Killing Art
by Jonathan Santlofer
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William Morrow, 2005 (2005)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The Killing Art is the third in the Kate McKinnon series, following The Death Artist and Color Blind. Kate, a former NYPD detective, and a society matron ('an uptown mover and shaker') until her husband's untimely death, is now an art historian. She hosts a PBS show on art and is writing a book about the New York School of painters of the 1930s and 1940s - artists including Jackson Pollock and Willem de Kooning. Still grieving over the murder of her husband Richard, Kate lives with Nola - a young woman she has taken in, who has just had a baby - and helps other young people including talented Josť, who eventually gets dangerously entangled in the plot.

The story starts with the slashing of a painting donated to the Modernist Museum by Kate. This leads her to a meeting with the NYPD art squad, which consists of one man, Detective Monty Murphy (he irritates Kate by constantly fiddling with rubber bands). Though a little reluctant to get embroiled in another investigation, Kate gets seriously involved after the Slasher goes after an old friend's art - and kills the friend's husband in the process. One unusual aspect of this thriller is that the killer is a 'psycho who sends previews of coming attractions.' He mails victims art collages (actually drawn by the author) that incorporate clues to the next painting to be targeted. Santlofer also takes the reader into the mind of the perpetrator, showing someone in continual pain, seeking vengeance for the perceived wrong that caused it.

As the slashings - of both priceless works of art and people - mount, Kate and Monty follow the trail of clues the killer leaves (as can art literate readers), and gradually learn of historical dissension amongst members of the New York School. Along the way, the plot pulls in the well-known Guerilla Girls, art theft and fraud, and even a Columbian drug lord, while profiler Mitch Freeman gradually thaws the ice encasing Kate's grieving heart. The thriller concludes with a crescendo of suprises and action, following which Kate gets her life back to normal and finishes her book. The Killing Art is an entertaining mystery, one of a series that I recommend particularly to art lovers.

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