Still Lives by Maria Hummel
eBook review copy; 288 pages
Still Lives by Maria Hummel is a recommended mystery
concerned with who might be responsible for an artist's
Maggie Richter, the staff editor at Los Angeles’s Rocque Museum, is
attending the opening gala for avant-garde artist Kim Lord's latest
show. Lord's self-portraits feature paintings with Lord posed as
famous murdered women. Maggie wanted to avoid attending because
Lord's boyfriend, Greg Shaw Ferguson, is Maggie's ex. To make
matters worse, Greg left Maggie for Lord. However, when Kim Lord is
missing from her own opening gala, something is amiss and the search
is on for the controversial artist. When Greg becomes the prime
suspect, Maggie begins a low key investigation into Lord's
disappearance and the suspects.
The novel works because of Hummel's careful descriptions of the
various characters and their concerns. While Lord's show may disgust
many of them, they are all ambitious and concerned over the success
of the museum and keeping their place in the art world of Los
Angeles. Maggie uses her place as an insider along with her training
as a journalist to fuel her investigation. The novel does have a
very slow start and it takes a while for the pace to pick up and for
Maggie's investigation to begin.
The writing is good, but I was surprised Still Lives was
chosen as a Book of the Month. Perhaps this is because I had a
couple issues with it. It is a good novel, but not quite that good.
Maggie is the narrator, so you get to read many of her thoughts in
descriptions, etc. I'll admit right now I had a problem with some of
these since they demeaned other people. For example: "Evie in the
cheap gray pantsuit and white blouse of a supermarket manager."
Really? Why not just say a cheap suit? Why describe it as connected
with someone's job - someone who likely doesn't wear a cheap suit?
And why have Maggie, as a character, even think of this if she comes
from a modest background? And this is just one example.
While the big hook is that the novel is about the "media's
fetishistic fascination with the violent murders of beautiful
women," I never really felt that was the focus. Lord's art dealt with it
and it was discussed in the context of her art work, but in reality
a statement was never definitively made. The famous murders were
discussed - but I began to feel that Hummel was taking their murders
and using them as a plot device to pull in readers. A "message" novel doesn't guarantee a 5 star novel.
My review copy was courtesy of Counterpoint