Death of an Artist
Review: When her daughter dies after a fall down a flight of stairs, Marnie Markov is convinced it wasn't an accident. But there's no evidence to suggest it wasn't, especially since Stef was acting erratically just prior to her death. Still, Marnie enlists the aid of an ex-homicide detective to prove she's right in Death of an Artist, a stand-alone mystery by Kate Wilhelm.
Marnie's daughter Stef Markov was an artist, a somewhat eccentric artist but a talented one, whose work was shown in several galleries. But Stef had one stipulation: her paintings were not for sale. She relented a few times with some of her older work, paintings she was no longer "attached" to, but for the most part she was adamant that nothing be sold without her express permission. So it comes as a surprise to Marnie — and everyone else who knew Stef — that Dale Oliver, Stef's fourth and current husband, shows up after Stef's death with a signed contract giving him full authority to dispose of her paintings. Stef had previously given her mother legal control of her estate in the event of her death and disputes Dale's contractual claim. Furthermore, she believes that Dale actually believes his contract is valid, and killed Stef before she could change her mind. In a strange twist, it appears as if Stef really did sign it, only using a variant of her name that would never stand up in court should it ever be challenged. While Marnie takes legal steps to stop Dale, she asks a new resident to the community, Anthony "Tony" Mauricio, formerly a NYPD cop now retired, for advice on how to prove Dale guilty of murder.
Death of an Artist is probably best characterized as a quiet, elegantly plotted mystery that takes place in a sleepy coastal Oregon community. Four generations of Markovs feature in the story — Marnie, her daughter Stef, her granddaughter Vanessa "Van" and her son Josh — and the story is as much about them — and Tony — as it is the criminal, if indeed a crime has been committed, investigation. The plot tends to meander at times but never lacks focus. This is not a whodunit-style novel of suspense or an action-oriented one, but a mystery that relies on strong characters and a rustic, atmospheric setting to tell an interesting story.
Acknowledgment: Minotaur Books provided a copy of Death of an Artist for this review.
Review Copyright © 2012 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Heaven is High
Minotaur Books (Hardcover), February 2011
ISBN-13: 9780312658601; ISBN-10: 0312658605
Location(s) referenced in Death of an Artist: Oregon
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Death of an Artist by Kate Wilhelm
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Publication Date: March 2012
List Price: $24.99