Monday, September 15, 2008

The Brutal Art by Jesse Kellerman

Ethan Muller is struggling to establish his reputation as a dealer in the cut-throat world of contemporary art when he is alerted to a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: in a decaying New York slum, an elderly tenant has disappeared, leaving behind a staggeringly large trove of original drawings and paintings. Nobody can tell Ethan much about the old man, except that he came and went in solitude for nearly forty years, his genius hidden and unacknowledged. Despite the fact that, strictly speaking, the artwork doesn't belong to him, Ethan takes the challenge and makes a name for the old man - and himself. Soon Ethan has to congratulate himself on his own genius: for storytelling and salesmanship. But suddenly the police are interested in talking to him. It seems that the missing artist had a nasty past, and the drawings hanging in the Muller Gallery have begun to look a lot less like art and a lot more like evidence. Sucked into an investigation four decades cold, Ethan will uncover a secret legacy of shame and death, one that will touch horrifyingly close to home - and leave him fearing for his own life.

This book had such promise. Aside from the immense detail down irrelevant avenues, the core story of the artist and his link to Ethan's own family is good. But unfulfilled in the end. The story pretty much goes where you expect in terms of "the link" but never really comes to fruition in a substantial enough way.

So it was a good read, but not a great read. I must say I definitely prefer his father's Alex Delaware novels.

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