In this debut psychological novel, a painter’s new method unlocks the power of extrasensory perception, giving her access to the dark secrets of others.
Kira, a painter living in New Orleans, has just started a new business called Canvas of Life. When her mother died and was cremated, Kira made a work in her honor by mixing her mom’s ashes with the paints. Now, for a price, she makes paintings that commemorate the deceased and incorporate their ashes. Her first client is a woman named Louise Grayson, who is shocked by the final product. Kira has somehow accurately rendered Louise’s father without seeing a picture. Kira’s second commission is from a widower named Wes Kingsley, and again, her painting says more than she’s been told. It shows that his wife committed suicide because Wes beat her. When he sees the work, he is shocked: “ ‘Oh my Nina!’ he finally exclaimed quietly. ‘It’s her! How did you…how could you…?’ ” Things really get interesting when Kira takes on a third client, Sean, a farmer from Kansas City whose adoptive father has just died. Sean is an empath—“I feel people’s feelings around me,” he tells Kira. When he visits New Orleans for a consultation, they immediately fall in love. But Kira’s painting of Sean’s father begins to unearth dark secrets he hid from his son. Summers’ entertaining novel is well structured and briskly paced. With plenty of foreshadowing and characters stricken by one premonition after another, the taut tale achieves an enjoyably ominous mood. But the author relies too heavily on dream sequences, which, fueled by ESP or not, grow tiresome after a while. Sean, in particular, is a wearying character: Not only can he read a person’s every mood, he also feels the need to comment on it. On top of that, he writes terrible poems: “In your eyes I saw a light / That shines into my heart so bright.” A real empath would keep the verse to himself.
A flawed but tense and satisfying thriller that does justice to its weird and macabre premise.