Review

Death Artist: A Novel of Suspense

by Jonathan Santlofer

THE
DEATH ARTIST (aptly subtitled "A Novel of Suspense") is a taut,
riveting thriller set in the New York art world. Jonathan
Santlofer, the author, brings to the book a lifetime in the
creative and exclusive circle of buyers, curators, experts, and
artists. He is the winner of two National Endowment for the Arts
painting grants, several Visiting Artist residencies at The Vermont
Studio Center, and a variety of other honors. Santlofer knows art
--- the classic and the contemporary --- and he puts this knowledge
to good use in his first novel, at once educating and entertaining
us. Like his paintings, Santlofer's DEATH ARTIST concerns itself
with reality versus illusion.

The reality is this: Kate McKinnon, a renowned art expert and
television luminary of sorts, finds herself drawn into a series of
ritualistic murders by someone who seems to have specifically
targeted her, her celebrity, and her past. A former detective with
the NYPD, Kate is more than familiar with the type of criminal who
seems to be pursuing her and taunting her, first with the brutal
murder of a young girl she had personally mentored for many years,
and then with a string of murders fashioned to give the illusion of
paintings by the masters, with victims connected to the city's art
scene. It is Kate's job to take the clues the egotistical murderer
sends her, weed through the possible suspects (curators, artists,
and relations alike) and try to stop the Death Artist before he
completes his next piece and, ultimately, before he shares with her
his masterpiece. As if the murders themselves were not intriguing
enough, Santlofer further tantalizes us with underlying stories of
an amateur pornography ring, illegal art dealings, and unimaginable
relationships.

Remarkably, this is Santlofer's first piece of fiction. Why
remarkable? Because Santlofer writes with the flair and technique
of a seasoned thriller author. His plot is tight, his characters
engaging and likable (or dislikable, if that's his intention), his
murders and ensuing mystery unique, his diversions convincingly
distracting, and his climax surprising --- and satisfying. This is
a whodunit of the highest caliber. THE DEATH ARTIST has all of the
elements of some of the best classic thrillers and bodes well for a
long career in storytelling. Here's hoping Santlofer will give the
pen and the paintbrush equal time in the future.

Reviewed by Roberta O'Hara on January 21, 2011

Death Artist: A Novel of Suspense
by Jonathan Santlofer

  • Publication Date: September 1, 2003
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: HarperTorch
  • ISBN-10: 0060004428
  • ISBN-13: 9780060004422