Tuesday, 17 May 2016

All love is Improbable - let's be honest

When lovelorn Annie McDee stumbles across a dirty painting in a junk shop while looking for a present for an unstable man, she had no idea what she has discovered.  Soon she finds herself drawn unwillingly into the tumultuous London art world, populated by exiles Russian oligarchs, avaricious Sheikas, desperate auctioneers and unscrupulous dealers, all scheming to get their hands on her painting - a lost eighteenth-century masterpiece called 'The Improbability of Love'.  Delving into the painting's past, Annie will uncover not just an illustrious list of former owners, but some of the darkest secrets of European history - a in doing so she might just learn to open up to the possibility of falling in love again.

Apart from reading ‘The Girl with the Pearl Ear-ring’ many years ago I have not read many novels about art.  Where this one differs from the aforementioned, this novel is about the mad, mad world of art acquisitions and auctions.

The improbability of love does not merely refer to artwork itself but how we find love in the most improbable of places, how it or the lack of it influences our actions and affects our lives for good or ill.

Throughout the novel we meet many interesting characters who although well written and researched but due to the sheer number of them many felt rather two dimensional.  The novel had quite a few points of view which could be rather confusion but each POV was written in a different way.  Interestingly enough we also get the POV of the artwork itself which was original and fascinating.

The POVs include those of wealthy society types, gallery owners, Russian oligarchs, politicians, scholar, restorers, and ‘ordinary everyday’ people.  Their lives are both fascinating and on occasion heart-breaking … the lengths people will go to, to acquire an important piece of art.  However, instead of being a major part of the plot; many could have merely been supporting characters as is befitting their station.

The plot was reasonably paced and suspenseful.  Without giving too much away there was a mention of Holocaust/Nazi history. Although a literary work of fiction the descriptions of the art and the food draw you in and make you want to be a part of the action.

One of the main characters and the unwitting owner of the artwork was Annie who had a very dysfunctional relationship with life, love and her alcoholic mother.  Yet through the novel Annie grows and develops her love of life, work and another.

This book is good albeit there were, in places large gaps in the story; and the ending felt rather rushed.  There seemed to be huge gaps between some significant events near the end, as if the author had been given a page count and had to cut a lot of the novel out to achieve it.

Sometimes the novel cannot decide whether it wants to be a modern or even archaic romance, a satire of the London art scene, a cooking book, a mystery, a history of the lives who owned the painting or of art theft in Nazi Germany.  Perhaps the author was trying to cover too much ground in her debut novel.  All that taken together with the rather archaic/literary and foreign words used could put quite a few readers off.  Thank goodness for the build in dictionary feature of my Kindle.

I think the most interesting part of the novel was the restoration and researching the history of the artwork (proving is provenance); and what this painting meant to its creator and each of its owners.

As a first novel this work is reasonably well polished although some more editing would have given it more of a gleam.  I will definitely be looking for more works by this author.

Thank you Netgalley for allowing me to read this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Netgalley review 4 stars, Goodreads and Amazon review 4 stars

I still don't know why 'We are the Hanged Man'

The Hanged Man is coming, and there's nothing you can do to stop him ...

Durrant was the most brutal, psychotic killer the Met had ever come across. Captured in the early '80s, he should have been in prison for the rest of his life. Someone had other ideas.

Thirty years later, DCI Jericho, the man who put Durrant away, is working in quiet anonymity in the West Country, living with the guilt of the one case he never solved:  the disappearance of his own wife.

The Hanged Man tarot card that arrives in the mail seems like a trivial joke, but it's only the beginning.  Soon people are disappearing, and Durrarnt is back to his old ways.

Suddenly Jericho is being thrown to the wolves.  The noose tightens, the body count rises, and events spin helplessly towards a shocking and bloody climax.

This is a police procedural novel set in the West Country of the UK.  Although it is well plotted and makes you want to continue reading it is written in a gloomy ploddy fashion, much like the protagonist of the novel. 

DCI Jericho is rather an unlikeable gloomy, damaged (aren’t they all?) do with only one real companion in the Somerset and Wells Police force.  He is even disliked by his Chief Superintendent (the reason for which is divulged later in the novel).  He does not suffer fools gladly and despises a lot of things especially cheap ‘popular’ television and yet he is assigned to be the Police representative for a reality TV show. 

So whilst he is not participating in the reality show is also has to try and sole a crime or two.  This character did not really come off the page for me.  I think he was too much inside his own head.

I did not really get into this novel despite it being well written and with an intriguing plot.  Don’t get me wrong I love mystery thriller novels and the creepier and gorier the better but this one was so bland.  There were humorous light touches thanks to the DCI’s only ‘friend’ and partner DS Haynes; but other than that there was very little to bring this novel out of the doldrums.

Like the rest of the novel the ending felt flat too.  Too little action rather too late with very little explanation and too many things were left open ended – a perfect set up for book 2 (which I was going to read next but needed something lighter before getting to it).

I am not really into satirical books and perhaps for this reason this novel didn’t grab me.  If this genre of book is your bag then this is probably the book for you.

Thank you Netgalley for allowing me to read this book for an honest review.  

Netgalley 3 stars; Goodreads 2 stars; Amazon 3 stars.