Review: Detective Superintendent Anders Knutas investigates the death of prominent and highly respected gallery owner on the Swedish island of Gotland, his body found hanging from a city wall gate, clearly not a suicide but far too elaborate a scene to be a simple robbery gone wrong in Killer's Art, the fourth mystery in this series by Mari Jungstedt, first published in Sweden in 2006 as Den döende dandyn.
Knutas quickly discovers that the dead man, Egon Wallin was a man of many secrets. Though well known within the tight-knit community of Visby, Gotland's capital, few knew that he had already negotiated the sale of the gallery that had been in his family for generations and purchased both an apartment in Stockholm and an interest in another gallery there. Even his wife, Monika, was unaware of her husband's plans. The case gets complicated further when Monika discovers a cache of paintings in a rarely used room of their house. The paintings turn out to have been stolen over the past few years from various galleries and homes throughout the region, though how and why they were stored there is unknown. The deeper Knutas digs, the further he seems to be from a solution to this most puzzling murder.
For the most part, Killer's Art is an engrossing police procedural. The overall story arc is nicely conceived and constructed, and plays out in an appropriate manner with the requisite red herrings and false steps all contextually relevant. Two relatively minor elements of the story don't quite work, however, and for very different reasons. The opening chapters — and it should be noted there are a lot of chapters, many scarcely more than a page long — attempt to do too much, what with trying to set up the myriad characters, including the known but unnamed killer, all the while creating a suspenseful atmosphere with mysterious references to some event that occurred not long ago and will presumably be the motive — or contribute to the motive — for murder. It's choppy, uneven, and decidedly confusing. Once the body is discovered, the narrative smoothes out considerably and develops a rhythm that serves the story well. The other element that doesn't work involves a reporter, his photographer fiancée, and their plans for the future. It's a lengthy sideplot that serves only one purpose: creating some tension towards the end, and even that is awkwardly introduced … and an unnecessary intrusion into what is otherwise a really well crafted murder mystery.
Acknowledgment: Stockholm Text provided an eARC of Killer's Art for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Killer's Art: Sweden
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Killer's Art by Mari Jungstedt — An Anders Knutas Mystery
Publisher: Stockholm Text
Format: Trade Paperback
Publication Date: January 2013
List Price: $14.99