The Death Artist by Jonathan Santlofer. William Morrow, 2002.
The Death Artist is the first in a series of three books featuring Kate McKinnon, former police officer turned art world darling. After marrying, Kate left the force to return to her first love, art history. Now a well-known figure in the New York art scene, Kate finds herself sucked back into the police world when an art-related pattern emerges in a series of murders that seemed to be aimed at Kate. It takes her vast knowledge of art to reveal the pattern and find the truth behind the murders before she becomes the death artist's next victim.
Though the concept is interesting, the execution leaves a little to be desired. Kate is sometimes a little slow on the uptake. As a reader, I was frustrated when she seemed unable to work out the seemingly obvious clues set before her. I also expected a higher quality of writing to convey this high-minded concept, but I suppose an artist can't be expected to be a great writer as well. That's right, Jonathan Santlofer's first creative outlet was art. You can see some of his pieces on the Pavel Zoubok Gallery website.
Despite my criticisms, I still found The Death Artist an enjoyable read overall. The mystery was good enough to make me keep reading. I wanted to know how it turned out even if it wasn't the most well-constructed narrative I've ever read. I also continued on to the other two Kate McKinnon books since I already had them.
Bottom line? I wouldn't rush out to get the Kate McKinnon series, but I also wouldn't turn it down if someone offered to let me borrow it. If you are intrigued by Jonathan Santlofer and the concept of integrating art into murder mysteries, you might want to bypass his early efforts and start with Anatomy of Fear, the first in the Nate Rodriguez series. From the reviews I've seen, it is here that Santlofer really begins to hit his stride.