Tuesday, 18 December 2007

The Art of Murder - Jose Carlos Somoza

When people are painted and displayed as canvases, where is the line drawn between humanity and art? In this novel, the art world sees the hyperdramatic models who are on display in galleries or up for sale to be shown privately as art first, and people second, but not everyone agrees with this rather simplistic view. The brutal murder of a child-canvas at the start of the book instigates an examination of the shady corners of this exploitative yet creative movement through they eyes of various characters, including several canvases, a detective investigating the murder and employees of the Master, Bruno van Tysch.

I did find some of the skips between characters a little distracting, as it took me a while to work out who they were in relation to everyone else (and I got two characters with names starting with the same letter muddled). Once I had sorted that out, the story felt a lot stronger, with more substance than a regular whodunnit. By the end, it seemed that hyperdramatism was less an artform but more of a cult, complete with brain-washing and sacrificial rites, and the choices made by the cast of converts showed how successfully they had been indoctrinated. Good science fiction (as opposed to fantasy) tends to take a simple 'what if' and run with it, and the ramifications of this plausible shift from current reality are chilling.

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