Emerging from beneath his former nom de guerre, Patrick Lynch (Figure of Eight, 2000, etc.), Geary delivers a thriller that explores the art world’s most gruesome possibilities.
British biographer Nick Greer has been waiting for a New York publisher for as long as he’s been writing the definitive life of deceased artist Frank Spira. But when his subject’s old boyfriend turns up—with information about a missing Spira painting, The Incarnation, no less—Greer is off to New York not to meet with editors but to chase art and ghosts and killers. Soon after Nick interviews the lover, he turns up dead, and a billionairess art collector warns that he died for the missing painting and so, probably, will Nick—unless he gets arrested by the detectives who want to talk to him first. Nick manages to go back to London only to find that his girlfriend has left him and his British editor is hankering for that book. Just when the action starts to drag, another friend of Spira’s dies, and a mysterious Arab turns up with the information that Nick is under close surveillance. There are answers to all the mayhem in the debauchery of Spira’s life, which of course Nick knows like the back of his hand, but there are new mysteries as well, so when Nick gets a call telling him to go to Tangiers, can he resist? Geary sometimes elevates his prose beyond the level required for the genre, and sometimes sinks beneath it: “The guy did a kind of Beavis and Butthead snigger.” In his artsy adventure, akin to Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s The Flanders Panel, the author relies a little too much on gore for energy, though the painter himself was certainly acquainted with the macabre. The mysteries mount. Will The Incarnation surface? Will Spira’s canvases turn out to be something other than just regular canvas? Will it all be solved in time for the show at the Guggenheim? And will Nick manage to come out of it with his morals intact?
All said and done, one to put your real name on.