A serial killer terrorizes an unusual art world where people are objects for purchase as well as models.
Though his story is set in the summer of 2006, Somoza offers a futuristic premise: Beautiful young girls, and some boys, are made over by famous artists into priceless works, displayed in museums and galleries, and sold to wealthy collectors. Painted sienna and ochre, 14-year-old Annek Hollech stands immobile behind a rope in a Viennese museum as a work called Deflowering, by the Dutch neo-master Bruno van Tysch. Shortly afterward, she’s found brutally, perhaps ritualistically murdered in the remote woods. Suspicion falls first upon Oscar Díaz, employed by the artist to shepherd the young artwork. Two of Tysch’s other employees, the urbane team of Lothar Bosch and April Wood, seem to have more clout than local police and more interest in solving the crime. Their on-and-off investigation is upstaged by the odyssey of Clara Reyes, a slightly older, more experienced version of Annek, who accepts a potentially dangerous booking swathed in secrecy and finds a dangerous underworld of fetishism, torture and sexual slavery indicated by the story’s original title of Clara and Shade.
Murder and the threat of more provides a pulse of underlying tension, but Somoza (The Athenian Murders, 2001, etc.) elegantly explores larger metaphysical and artistic issues.