On March 18, 1990, two thieves broke into the The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and stole thirteen work of art, including five works by Edgar Degas - four drawings and a painting. This book imagines the trajectory of the painting, described as one in Degas' Bathers series. [The painting taken from the Gardner was not in the Bathers series.]
Claire Roth is a professional art forger, and works for the fictional reproductions. Her specialty is Degas, although she can copy other masters and genres. Claire is an artist in her own right, but she has been a pariah in the art community for three years. The reason she has been cast out is a key part of the story.
Claire is aproached by art gallery owner Adrien Markel to make a reproduction of the stolen Degas painting, and Markel promises her a one woman show in exchange.
Edward Degas, Isabella Stewart Gardner, and Gardner's great grand niece are key players.
I would listen to the narrator of this book, X.E. Sands, read a grocery list. She is just that good, and she was an ideal choice to narrate this book.
I found that the plot, although definitely a tangled web, was predictable in the last third or so. I would have liked to have known more about Gardner herself, and I hope B.A. Shapiro writes more about her, either fiction or non-fiction.
This is B.A. Shapiro's first novel. It's made several best seller lists, and is an Indie Book Dealer Best of 2012. I learned more about oil painting than I ever expected to know - or even thought I'd be interested in. The book isn't teachy, but I learned a lot.
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When I was in high school, I caught a late night showing of Mike Nichol’s 1966 film adaptation of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” I knew nothing about the play or the film, but Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were starring. They’d had a tempestuous, headline-grabbing relationship that I was dimly aware of. It was a warm summer evening and I had nothing better to do, so I settled in to watch.
It wasn’t long before I felt chilled and nearly sick. I remember quite clearly thinking, “What the hell am I watching?” as I watched George and Martha’s folie de deux.
Several hours into the Audible version of Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl”, I thought, “What the hell am I listening to?” I live in California, and, like that long ago evening with Burton and Taylor, it was a warm day – but I was cold, and my mouth tasted metallic, as if I’d bitten down on a bit of foil in a piece of Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum.
I knew something was wrong – terribly wrong – between Nick Dunne and his wife, Amy Elliott Dunne, but I didn’t know what.
Flynn doesn’t start to reveal what is wrong until halfway through the book. When she does, it’s like starting to eat a beautiful Golden Delicious apple, and discovering rot underneath - and then a squirming mass of maggots.
Flynn’s writing is compelling, detailed and evocative, and that makes the rotten core of the Dunne’s marriage incredibly shocking. Some of the language in the book is jarringly vulgar. The thoughts that language expressed were true to the character that said them, and one of the first indications that character did not think like other people.
This is the first audio book I’ve listened to where a split male/female narration not only worked, it enhanced the story. Kirby Heybonne was a smug, arrogant Nick Dunne. Julia Whelan was Amy Dunne, beginning with cloying (and unchanging) naïveté of Becca Battoe’s Anastasia Steele in E.L. James “Fifty Shades” series. Whelan’s narration changed with her character, and so did Heybonne’s.
This isn’t a book for those lucky, cheerful, hopeful optimists who live by Facebook posts on the power of love. It’s not a book for horror fans who safely relegate terror to demons summoned by a ‘Book of the Dead’, a la “Evil Dead” 2013. This book is for those who know that real people can be terrifying, and can do utterly horrible things. Those people are the people of Simon Baron-Cohen’s “The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty,” 2011.
The Audible book is about 19 hours long, and it’s a compelling way to pass a long drive. Sleep isn’t possible when listening.
In case you are wondering, the title of the review is a line from "Gone Girl", quoting a line from a different source.
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There was something unique about the publication of Stephen King's 2014 "Mr. Mercedes". There wasn't a whole lot of publicity when it came out. Teasers didn't show up on my Facebook and Twitter feed, as they had for King's 2013 charmer, "Joyland." There was an unfortunately coincidence that warranted the silence.
I purchased the Audible "Mr. Mercedes" without reading the Publisher's Summary, so I could enjoy the surprise of knowing I would almost certainly like it, since it was King - but not knowing the genre or story before I listened. Was it Sci-Fi, like "The Tommyknockers" (1987)? A coming-of-age story, like the 1982 novella, "The Body: Fall from Innocence", which was adapted into Rob Reiner's 1986 "Stand by Me"? Of was it horror/supernatural, like - well, most of his books?
"Mr. Mercedes" turned out to be fan fiction - a modern tribute to Dashiell Hammet's Sam Spade ("The Maltese Falcon" (1929) etc.) mixed in with the brilliant, quirky women who intrigue Raymond Chandler's Phillip Marlowe ("The Big Sleep" (1939), etc.). There's also a hint of Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch ("Blood Work", 1998").
King's making a nod to nearly a century of hard-boiled detective fiction, and it's a fedora wearing trip to ethically challenged but morally pure shamuses.
King introduces retired detective Bill Hodges, who is eating himself to death in his La-Z-Boy, but if that doesn't work, has a .38 at the ready. Hodges is pulled out of retirement by an unsolved mass murder. Hodges' Watson is a deep voiced 17 year old Jerome Robinson, a brilliant, fearless young man from the most all-American family ever who has an uncanny knack for filling in Hodges' thoughts and seeing danger.
Unfortunately. there were some plot holes big enough to drive a Mercedes - or maybe even a Hummer - through. I enjoyed the book - especially the dialogue - but King's usually a tighter writer. That's why the 3 on the story.
Now for the reason this book was probably rolled out with such little fanfare: Brady Hartsfield, King's imagined serial/mass killer. Hartsfield's sad lack of friends - he has just one, a co-worker who probably has no idea she is his only friend; his social awkwardness; his twisted sexuality; and his hatred of almost everyone, especially minorities, is eerily close to real life mass murderer Elliott Rodgers. Rodgers killed 6 people and injured 13 in Isla Vista, CA, on May 23, 2014, and then killed himself. Rodgers' "My Twisted Life" (2014) is essentially a 141-page suicide note, explaining why Rodgers was going to slaughter as many women as he could - and it isn't so far from what the fictional Hartsfield intended to do. "Mr. Mercedes" was released just 10 days later. It had to have been finished long before Rodgers' rampage - but the timing was truly unfortunate.
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