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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Under her Lauren Kelly pseudonym, Joyce Carol Oates explores the wildly subjective world of experimental art in her third suspense novel, following Take Me, Take Me with You and The Stolen Heart.
Drewe Hillebrand, the controversial benefactor of an avant-garde artists' colony, is kidnapped from her estate on the Hudson River, along with her niece, Annemarie Straube. Then hikers report something frantically crawling in the underbrush in a remote area of Shale River Mountain State Park -- a wounded animal, perhaps -- and the investigating rangers find Annemarie with massive amounts of crystal meth in her body. She recovers, but her disjointed recollections don't offer many substantial clues as to what took place. The only evidence is a destroyed work of art that Hillebrand commissioned years earlier, a frozen bust of herself covered in her own coagulated blood -- a blood mask -- sculpted by a radical "bio-anatomical" artist. Is it revolutionary art? Blatant sensationalism? Intentional blasphemy? An avant-garde prelude to murder?
The shocking bio-art featured in these pages is a disturbing metaphor for the entire novel. Blood Mask will not only leave readers wondering till the very end where (and why) Drewe Hillebrand disappeared, but also raise serious questions about self-image, prejudice, devotion, and the societal importance of artistic expression -- a page-turner of the highest order. Paul Goat Allen