DIRTY-DOWN by Peter Clothier


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Like Chiaroscuro (1985, p. 1223), this second mystery with an artist-hero features a strained plot and unengaging people--but is somewhat enlivened by the detailed close-ups of the art-world's least glamorous aspects. Wil Garretson, a successful L.A. painter/constructionist (à la Joseph Cornell), receives an urgent call for help from beloved former student, Mrs. Sally Horan: her secret lover, young artist Jim Sewell, has been shot--by enigmatic assassins--during the adulterous couple's mountain-camping rendezvous. So Wil does his best to cover up Sally's affair with Jim and is soon, not very plausibly, playing full-time sleuth--especially after he discovers two valuable stolen paintings in Jim's studio. Was Jim, a part-time employee at an art-transport company, involved in a large-scale art scam? It seems so, And Wil's investigation of that transport outfit (owned by his old pal Stu) eventually involves multiple corpses, slow-paced revelations (re drugs, theft, forgery), and the unmasking of the not-very-surprising mastermind behind all the mayhem. Despite much serviceable effort, there's little real animation in Wil's moody musing (creative blockage, a stalled love-affair) or in the large supporting cast (including a sellout artist and a crass dealer). But the art-business specifics--crating, insurance, etc.--may hold the attention of reader-connoisseurs through the overlong, uninspired action.

Pub Date: July 15th, 1987
Publisher: Atheneum