Review

The Murder Artist

by John Case



One of the joys of reading is picking up on an author at the point
where they go from someone you check out occasionally to your
‘A' list --- that tattered list that is so old and long that
you have it folded over and taped together, that you add to more
often than you subtract from. I have the feeling that John Case's
latest effort, THE MURDER ARTIST, will put him on a lot of those
lists.

Alex Callahan, the protagonist of this agonizingly thrilling work,
is the type of guy with whom a lot of the male readership will
readily identify. He is an investigative television reporter whose
marriage is unable to stand the strain on his job. Estranged from
his wife, with the chances of a reconciliation being slim to none,
Callahan is settling in for an extended period of visitation with
his six-year-old twin sons. An idyllic afternoon at a local
Renaissance Fair --- even Callahan is beginning to enjoy himself
--- is abruptly and irrevocably shattered when the boys
disappear.

Case's handling of the disappearance and the immediate aftermath is
marvelous. Callahan's reaction, not only to the disappearance but
also to his initial status as a suspect by local law enforcement,
is so true to life that it is at once painful and compelling to
read. And when local and federal law enforcement reach a dead end,
Callahan begins an investigation of his own. His only clues as to
the fate of his sons are found in his home: two rows of dimes, a
blood-soaked tee shirt, and a mysterious origami figure. Callahan
is not without investigative resources, but ultimately he is on his
own, knowing that the odds of finding them grow horribly against
him with each passing day. As his search leads him back and forth
across the country, Callahan realizes that he is chasing a
brilliant, elusive and dangerous phantom --- and that time is
running out for him and his sons.

Case is quite frankly nothing short of brilliant here. His plotting
and pacing, always good in his previous work, is absolutely superb
here. He never lets the reader know any more than Callahan does;
each page, each paragraph --- heck, at some points each sentence
--- is a blind alley. You never know what will or won't happen, or
where Callahan's worthy quest will take him. As a result, there are
points in THE MURDER ARTIST where literally you'll feel your heart
stop. And keep the defibrillator handy: while most matters are
resolved, for better or otherwise, one or two plot threads are left
hanging that could provide the basis for a sequel, should Case be
so inclined.

For now, however, THE MURDER ARTIST is more than enough of a
cardiovascular workout. Set aside two nights for it: one for
reading, and one for worrying.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 7, 2011

The Murder Artist
by John Case

  • Publication Date: June 28, 2005
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Mass Market Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Fawcett
  • ISBN-10: 0345464729
  • ISBN-13: 9780345464729