The Killing Art

The Killing Art

4.5 2
by Jonathan Santlofer

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History and fiction collide with deadly consequences in the third Kate McKinnon novel—a story of bitter revenge, where the past invades the present and a decades-old secret proves fatal

Kate McKinnon has lived many lives, from Queens cop to Manhattan socialite, television art historian, and the woman who helped the NYPD capture the Death Artist and the

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History and fiction collide with deadly consequences in the third Kate McKinnon novel—a story of bitter revenge, where the past invades the present and a decades-old secret proves fatal

Kate McKinnon has lived many lives, from Queens cop to Manhattan socialite, television art historian, and the woman who helped the NYPD capture the Death Artist and the Color Blind killer. But that's the past. Now, devastated by the death of her husband, Kate is attempting to quietly rebuild her life as a single woman. Gone are the Park Avenue penthouse and designer clothes. Now it's a funky Chelsea loft, downtown fashion, and even a hip new haircut as Kate plunges back into her work—writing a book about America's most celebrated artistic era, the New York School of the 1940s and '50s, a circle that included Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Mark Rothko.

But when a lunatic starts slashing the very paintings she is writing about—along with their owners—Kate is once again tapped by the NYPD. As she deciphers the evidence—cryptic images that reveal both the paintings and the people who will be the next targets—Kate is drawn into a world where art and art history provide lethal clues.

The Killing Art is Jonathan Santlofer's most gripping and chilling story yet, but that isn't the only reason the novel is remarkable. The author, who is also an acclaimed artist, has created works of art just for the book that tantalize and challenge readers by using well-known symbols in innovative ways, allowing them to decode the clues along with Kate. A masterwork of both suspense fiction and art, The Killing Art will impress both thriller readers and art fans as the plot twists and turns toward a shocking climax.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
As in Santlofer's two previous crime novels (The Death Artist and Color Blind), his latest to star Kate McKinnon, a former NYPD detective turned art historian, brings the New York art world to sharply detailed life. Kate has given up her rich clients and is now writing a book about the New York School of painters of the 1930s. After someone slashes a painting by Willem de Kooning, which was loaned to a museum by Kate's late husband, she reluctantly returns to police work. She decides to help Det. Monty Murphy, the NYPD's entire art squad, find out who's behind this and other slashings, which include a Jackson Pollock, a Franz Kline and finally the collectors who owned the spoiled pictures. Kate and Monty make a believable pair of colleagues, and Santlofer's own black-and-white artwork advances the plot. His writing and plotting are no match for his superior brushwork, however, which makes for an inventive and curious book. Agent, Suzanne Gluck at William Morris. 6-city author tour. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Santlofer's third thriller featuring art historian/former cop Kate McKinnon Rothstein (after Color Blind) centers on a killer who slashes modern masterpieces by the likes of Jackson Pollock-and then takes his knife to the collectors who own them. Kate, still grieving over her husband's murder, is drawn into the case after a de Kooning donated to a museum in her husband's name is destroyed shortly before her good friend Nicholas is murdered in front of his Franz Kline. Do these connections to Kate spell danger for her? The killer telegraphs his intentions through a series of cryptic paintings sent to the victims, but can Kate and the NYPD decipher his motives before the bloody rampage claims our heroine? Again melding the urbane New York art world with society's underbelly, Santlofer, an artist himself, has created a fast-moving procedural with enough creepy detail to please even the most ardent thriller fans. Speaking of details, note should be made of the author's black-and-white original artworks that incorporate clues for readers. Recommended.-Rebecca House Stankowski, Purdue Univ. Calumet, Hammond, IN Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A third art-and-murder cocktail from Santlofer (Color Blind, 2004, etc.). The same protagonist, too: Kate McKinnon, New York City cop turned modern art historian, but ready to sleuth again when family or friends are victims. Here, good friend and art patron Nicholas Starrett's body is found in his Long Island home next to a slashed painting worth millions. A Pollock and a de Kooning have previously been slashed in the city. At each site, the vandal leaves small black-and-white paintings (the author, himself an artist, created and reproduced them in the book as a lagniappe); they provide clues to the killer's next attack. It's helpful, too, that all the paintings are by the New York School, those 1940s Abstract Expressionists about whom Kate is writing a book. (Santlofer cleverly commingles real and invented artists.) Six cases of murder plus vandalism form the main storyline, but there are two other major plot elements. One involves art world politics-the key to the identity of the killer-and offers a glimpse of a feisty old female painter reminiscing that shows Santlofer at his best. He's at his worst, though, when detailing the fencing of stolen artwork. In an orgy of violence: a fence has her tongue cut out by her biggest client, a Colombian drug kingpin, while his goons kill two cops and a crooked museum director. Santlofer keeps Kate well away from this unpleasantness as she and Detective Murphy follow up those painting clues. At one point, Kate is way behind the reader in matching initials to a name, a disconcerting lapse for our art-savvy heroine. Still, she is always super-cool, even as her adrenaline surges, and she handles the climax with aplomb, though the full story of thekiller/vandal is preposterous. Some okay material about the New York School fails to redeem a generally lackluster effort.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Reprinted Edition
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 6.75(h) x 1.04(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Killing Art

A Novel of Suspense
By Jonathan Santlofer

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Jonathan Santlofer
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060541075

Chapter One

To the artists of the New York School painting was their life, their soul, their raison d'etre. For them, the 1930s and '40s were defined by cold-water flats, hard work, heavy drinking; painters hanging out in bars and coffee shops, arguing about the latest trends and ideas -- creation over completion, painting as an event -- but most of all, it was a time of intense friendships and camaraderie.

Kate McKinnon stared at the sentences on her computer screen, then glanced at her watch: 2 A.M. She'd gotten used to working on her book late at night and into the morning hours, a time when most normal people were sleeping. Since Richard's death sleep had been an intermittent visitor at best, the days and nights yawning in front of her.

A year ago, her life had been nearly perfect; but now, when she tried to reconstruct it, the events, memories, were fragmentary and scattered, like shards of a mirror she had carelessly dropped.

Had she really been a married woman, an uptown mover and shaker, a bona fide member of New York's elite? It felt like another lifetime, and the transformation she had gone through to get there -- Queens cop to society grande dame -- like something that had happened to someone else.

Kate pushed away from the desk, stretched her slender, almost six-foot frame, and ambled quietly down the hallway of her Chelsea loft, paused a moment to peek in on the one-year-old curled in his crib, son of her protegee Nola, the two of them having moved in with her when she'd sold the uptown apartment to pay taxes and debts accrued after the demise of her husband's once-lucrative law firm.

Kate leaned against the doorjamb, taking in the baby's dark curls, his chest rising and falling. Had it been only a year? It seemed forever -- or yesterday. If it were not for the baby, she would have little idea of time passing.

A dark alleyway. A dead body.

Kate squeezed her eyes shut, but the image of her husband -- a broken, toppled scarecrow, cops and medical examiner huddled over his body -- intensified.

A deep yoga breath, eyes still closed, searching for another image, and there it is, the one she was after: Richard, tall and handsome, smart and rich. The chance to start over. Exchange a cop's uniform for Armani, a row house for a penthouse, go back to school, pursue her first love, art history, earn the Ph.D., write the first book.

Ten years of marriage. Close to perfect.

Perhaps, if she were honest, only perfect through the lens of loss and melancholy. But God, how she missed that imperfect marriage.

Memories jitterbugged through her brain, impossible to hold on to, already starting to blur. Is this what a life together is reduced to? Kate felt tears burning behind her lids. But no. She would not allow herself that indulgence. She'd had enough tears.

She wondered how Richard would feel if he could see her now, living in a downtown loft, with a baby named for him just down the hall?

Pleased, she thought.

They hadn't been able to have children of their own, though they'd tried. And when they finally gave up, Kate devoted herself to charity work, nurturing dozens of kids through the educational foundation Let There Be a Future -- one of them, a once troubled teen from a Bronx housing project, Nola, asleep in the room just beside her baby. Funny, thought Kate, how she had unexpectedly gained a daughter, and a son, a reason to go on living when she had come so close to giving up.

Outside, garbage trucks were clanking and grinding, something she had rarely, if ever, heard when she lived on Central Park West, but it did not bother her. She was here now, in her new home, in her new life, still trying to figure it out, and determined to be happy.

Black and white acrylic paint on the palette. Brushes lined up. Simplicity itself. Just like the plan.

Well, okay, the plan is not so simple. No, the plan is simple. First one. Then another. Work my way up to the prize, that's it. Slow and steady.

Yes, a simple plan. It's the paintings that are complicated, or will be, for some. But that's the fun part, isn't it?

A warped smile.

Music turned on, an old Michael Jackson CD, Thriller; brush dipped in black paint, then white, mixed to create a cool gray, not quite right; more black, an image starting to take shape, a few details added. The artwork, a balm, takes the edge off pain, tamps down anxiety, dulls the recurring nightmares that do not wait for sleep.

An hour, maybe two, passes, one of the painted images finished. Time for a break. Sit back, assess the work, and the plan.

Will they get it? Does it matter? Were the other pictures received -- and what did they make of them?

No way to know. Not yet. Impossible to think it through with this pain, this damn pain.

When was the last pill? Can't remember. Just breathe. Feel the diaphragm expand. That's it. Hold it. Now, let it out, slowly.

Again, breathe. Give it time.


Practically a motto, for art, for life.

A damp paintbrush plucked from the edge of the palette, drawn along the cheek, an imaginary painting: smooth flesh, features redrawn.

What's the use?

Back to the painting. The one completed image stripped down to essential black and white, no color necessary, the replication slightly skewed, a facsimile -- like this life.

Painting: A way to order the world, and manipulate the viewer.

Order. Yes. Necessary to the plan.

Music turned up. An improvised moonwalk, awkward, though the performer believes it is perfect.

I can play the role any way I want. And why not? It's my turn now.

A lifetime of acting -- and so good at it.


Excerpted from The Killing Art by Jonathan Santlofer Copyright © 2005 by Jonathan Santlofer.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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