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White, Michael - 'The Art of Murder'
Paperback: 416 pages (Oct. 2010) Publisher: Arrow ISBN: 0099551446

Detective Chief Inspector Jack Pendragon, just cannot believe his eyes, when he is called out to view a murder scene in the Mile End Road, Whitechapel, London. The murder victim's body has been arranged in the form of a painting. The location of the corpse is appropriately enough in an art gallery where earlier that evening there had been a viewing. The murder victim is arranged in the form of a surrealist painting by Rene Magritte named The Son Of Man. The head of the body is wearing a bowler hat and a hole seven inches in diameter had been carved into the victim's face and where the eyes, nose and mouth had been was a space, now filled by a Granny Smith apple.

This killing is the first in a wave of such killings, all in an art tableaux form and where the victim is connected to the art establishment (the first was a joint owner of the gallery in which he was found) with the exception of one victim who is a Roman Catholic priest. Frequent reference is made in the book, in alternate chapters, to the story of Jack the Ripper and his murder victims during the 1880s.

Pendragon and his Sergeant, Jez Turner are mystified by this series of killings and there is a lot of press and pressure from senior detectives to get a quick result. Also the art establishment is very fearful wondering which one of them is likely to be the next victim. The artistic murders get more and more bizarre, the more practice the killer gets, and the historical murders of the nineteenth-century juxtaposed with the modern murders add to the mystery. This fine, well plotted story, reaches an inevitable conclusion when we learn who did the dastardly deeds.

Pendragon was born locally and is very familiar with the East End of London, but spent most of his police life, twenty years, working in Oxford but when his marriage broke down he left the force briefly but then rejoined and settled in the East London. As a police procedural this is a very good example and the book moves at quite a pace. I enjoyed getting to know this detective and I see the author has written only one other book introducing him, so I hope we have more opportunities of reading further adventures with DCI Jack Pendragon.

Terry Halligan, England
July 2011

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 2/07/2011 10:58