The Empress of Tempera by Alex Dolan
Diversion Publishing: 9/13/16
eBook review copy; 282 pages
The Empress of Tempera by Alex Dolan is a highly recommended thriller/mystery set in the art world of NYC and challenges the value and meaning of art.
In the opening of The Empress of Tempera, Katie Novis legally
changes her name to Paire Anjou. Paire, who is attending the Manhattan
of Art and Design, MSAD, adopts her new name In an attempt to distance
herself from her past spent in Maine being tormented by classmates over a
terrible act her parents committed. Now, legally Paire and the
girlfriend of an up and coming graffiti/guerilla type artist, Derek
Rosewood, she is headed to the Fern Gallery where Rosenwood has an
opening exhibit being installed. Outside the gallery window is an old
man sobbing, staring through the window. He fatally stabs himself in
front of Paire while staring at the painting "The Empress Xiao Zhe Yi,
Seated" by Chinese artist Qi. It is the only known work by Qi on exhibit
anywhere, and may be the only known existing work by him.
Paire ends up getting a job at the Fern Gallery where she is obsessed
with the painting along with the many others who stop to stare at it.
Rosenwood's wealthy benefactor is the supremely
obnoxious Abel Kasson. Kasson, who arranged for the exhibit at the
gallery, is also obsessed with the painting but for other reasons. Paire
begins to accompany Rosenwood on some of his illegal guerilla
installations, which eventually leads them to even more dangerous
The writing is good and the plot moves quickly after a slow start.
Although some of the characters seem more one dimensional caricatures
than flesh and blood people, Dolan sets up the story, describing what
captivates and intrigues connoisseurs about Qi and "The Empress Xiao Zhe
Yi, Seated," and then keeps the action moving swiftly to an almost
inevitable conclusion. The risks people will take for art, to create it
or possess it, is captured. Dolan does make a few leaps in the plot and
leaves explaining what Paire's parents actually did until the very end,
where it loses it's impact after all the other action that has taken
place. Still, The Empress of Tempera will grab your attention and hold it to the end.
My advanced reading copy was courtesy
of the publisher for review