"Irwin delivers a potent mix of murder, mystery, and mysticism in this entertaining debut thriller. ... At times fearful, exciting, and even erotic, this journey into faith and vice revels in surprises. ..."– Kirkus Reviews
Irwin delivers a potent mix of murder, mystery and mysticism in this entertaining debut thriller.
Mark Burton considers himself a brilliant restorer and forger of fine art, but his work isn’t fooling everyone: One of his forgeries gets a partner killed. He discovers the body after just a few pages. This fast pace leaves little time to get to know the lead or be distracted by the lack of a more thorough introduction. Mark’s one clue takes him to Venice and the home of Benetta Don—an aristocratic, enigmatic art collector. Mark quickly earns Benetta’s trust—or at least her interest—and joins her menagerie, living in her house, restoring artwork and painting portraits of the beautiful women who share the mansion. From here, the mysteries abound. Mark struggles to find the connection between Benetta and his compatriot’s murder, even as more bodies appear. He must also contend with the strange games and philosophies of his bedfellows. It would be easy to characterize this book by its connection to art crime, particularly in light of The Goldfinch’s Pulitzer win this year, but Benetta’s haunting manner and dark history render it more akin to gothic fiction. Accusations of witchcraft and devil-worship at first seem absurd, but as Mark uncovers more of the house’s history and traditions, even absurd beliefs become very real dangers. The art forger never develops much of a personality of his own, but the odd kinship he feels for this place and these people despite his entirely reasonable fear makes his narration engrossing nonetheless. And while neither the cult mystery within the walls nor the cutthroat crime without are extraordinarily nuanced on their own, the contrast between the two engages.
At times fearful, exciting and even erotic, this journey into faith and vice revels in surprises.