O' Artful Death

O' Artful Death

3.5 9
by Sarah Stewart Taylor
     
 

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Newcomer Sarah Stewart Taylor delivers a compelling and atmospheric cozy mystery that introduces Sweeney St. George, an art historian in Boston with a special interest in the art of death. Sweeney becomes interested in Byzantium, Vermont, an art colony that flourished in the late nineteenth century, when she comes upon a photograph of the striking gravestone of a

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Overview

Newcomer Sarah Stewart Taylor delivers a compelling and atmospheric cozy mystery that introduces Sweeney St. George, an art historian in Boston with a special interest in the art of death. Sweeney becomes interested in Byzantium, Vermont, an art colony that flourished in the late nineteenth century, when she comes upon a photograph of the striking gravestone of a girl who drowned, and may have been murdered, in 1890. The stone is in a tiny cemetery surrounded by other beautiful, if unremarkable, headstones, some dating back hundreds of years. But the unsigned sculpture that marks this young woman's grave is of extremely high quality and the artist is unrecognizable.


Sweeney is soon hooked, not only on the mystery of who created the beautiful sculpture but also on the details of the events surrounding the girl's death. When the friend who showed her the gravestone invites Sweeney to visit his relatives in Byzantium for Christmas, she jumps at the chance, knowing full well that the girl's murder has achieved the status of mythology in the town and hoping she'll be able to uncover new information. But by the time they arrive, her interest in the girl and the sculpture has gotten around town and, in fact, seems to have disturbed a killer. For not long after Sweeney arrives, one of the girl's descendants is murdered, shot and left lying in the cemetery.


Taylor has written a remarkably accomplished debut mystery in the traditional cozy vein, and she's sure to win over legions of fans with O' Artful Death.

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Editorial Reviews

The New York Times
… for a first-time novelist, Taylor does a lovely job of setting an atmospheric scene and luring us inside. — Marilyn Stasio
Booklist
An elegantly wrought first mystery with layers within layers like carved ivory balls. Twenty-eight-year-old Sweeney St. George - her father an artist suicide, her estranged mother an alcoholic -- is an art historian specializing in representations of death. A gorgeous and highly unusual marble grave marker of a young woman in Vermont catches her attention, and she accepts her friend Toby's invitation to spend Christmas at his family's home, in the village of Byzantium, Vermont, near the location of the grave marker and a famed nineteenth century art colony. Even before she arrives for the holidays and the beginning of her research, there's a murder. Petty and gross thievery and another killing intertwine with family secrets and town tensions, as Sweeney methodically patterns her research and slowly reveals the depths of her own sorrows. She's a vivid and attractive sleuth, and the iconography of gravestones and death, hidden meanings in diaries and inscriptions, and some complicated personal relationships sweep one past an overstuffed plot and a slightly wobbly denouement. Rich and rewarding reading.
Publishers Weekly
Freelance journalist Taylor makes a promising, if flawed, debut with an academic cozy set in rural Vermont's Byzantium, a bygone artists colony replete with a Victorian mansion, rumors of murder plots past and present and a surfeit of oddballs marooned there for the winter. Harvard art professor Sweeney St. George, invited to spend Christmas at the colony, soon finds herself immersed in a prolonged quest to find the origin of a distinctive monument in Byzantium's cemetery. Excerpts from a history of the colony help shed light on the fate of Mary Elizabeth Denholm, a farm girl employed as a maid and later as a model by the colony's rapacious founder. Sweeney's almost obsessive curiosity about poor Mary, who drowned at 18 in 1890, and the sculptor of her marble tomb becomes so intense that she (and likewise the reader) admits to being "ready for a break from Mary's gravestone." The story picks up with the unexpected slayings of locals linked to the scandal-ridden Mary, though it remains hampered by too many underdeveloped characters, notably one who proves to be the key to the ultimate resolution of Byzantium's present-day miseries. Taylor, however, does use her expert knowledge of 19th-century artwork and New England to good effect, and one can hope her plots will improve with experience. (June 2) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Art historian Sweeney St. George's interest in an unusual late-Victorian gravestone sculpture takes her to a former art colony in Vermont. Her arrival coincides with the suspicious death of an old local lady who believed that the young woman in the grave Sweeney is seeking was murdered. Sweeney investigates, attempting to find out who carved the beautiful monument and what really happened to the young woman. Her search into local family backgrounds inevitably turns up clues to the old lady's murder as well. A nicely puzzled plot, a closely confined rural setting, remarkable characterizations, and eminently readable prose commend this debut to all collections. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
In this corner is tall, red-haired art historian Sweeney St. George, an expert on Victorian death rituals and representations; in that corner are a burglar, a blackmailer, a murderer or two, and Sweeney’s romantic rival for the attentions of Toby DiMarco, the longstanding chum who invited her to spend the Christmas break with his relatives at Byzantium, a former artists’ colony in Vermont, where she becomes obsessed with discovering who carved Mary Denholm’s atypical 1890 tombstone. Sweeney’s attempts to pinpoint the sculptor are stymied when Ruth Kimball, a descendant of Mary’s who promised her information, is murdered in the cemetery, and old Byzantium artist journals kept in the historical society turn out to have crucial pages missing. Though everyone duly expresses regret that someone has clipped Sweeney’s emerald earrings and a few minor portraits from Byzantium’s most productive period, the colony’s current residents are not exactly devastated by the demise of old Mrs. Kimball, who wanted to sell her property to a condo developer. There’ll be another fatality and more burglaries as Sweeney and Ian, a visiting Englishman, scrutinize Tennyson tombstone verses for clues and Rosemary, whose facial birthmark can’t hide her dangerous beauty, puts the moves on Toby. Taylor’s debut offers pithy assessments of the Pre-Raphaelites, Tennyson, and Victorian mores, along with Christmas-card pretty scenes of winter in Vermont.
From the Publisher
"Taylor does a lovely job of setting an atmospheric scene and luring us inside."

-Marilyn Stasio, The New York Times Book Review

"A strikingly atmospheric debut. The writing is crisp and the characters all quite forcefully alive, especially Sweeney." -Denver Post

"[O' Artful Death] rings subtle—and enormously satisfying—changes on the venerable tried-and-true." -Newsday

"An elegantly wrought first mystery with layers within layers like carved ivory balls...Rich and rewarding reading."-Booklist

"A nicely puzzled plot, a closely confined rural setting, remarkable characterizations, and eminently readable prose." -Library Journal

"(Taylor) has an eye for the details of rural New England . . . Pull up an overstuffed chair and drift away." -The Boston Globe

"A compelling mystery about a dark subject. One can hope she'll bring Sweeney for more sleuthing."-Sunday Oklahoman"

"An academic cozy set in rural Vermont's Byzantium, a bygone artists colony replete with a Victorian mansion, rumors of murder plots past and present and a surfeit of oddballs marooned there for the winter."-Publishers Weekly

"Pithy assessments of the Pre-Raphaelites, Tennyson, and Victorian mores, along with Christmas-card pretty scenes of winter in Vermont."-Kirkus Reviews

"I could not put it down . . . Sweeney is a very human and appealing protagonist, and Sarah Stewart Taylor has a lovely, lyrical style. O' Artful Death will be one of the year's best first novels." -Deborah Crombie, author of And Justice There Is None

"Literate and lyrical, O' Artful Death by Sarah Stewart Taylor is a stunning debut novel. Art Historian Sweeney St. George, Taylor's protagonist, is quirky, appealing, and intelligent. O' Artful Death vaults Sarah Stewart Taylor into the select company of Amanda Cross and Jane Langton."-Carolyn Hart, author of Engaged to Die

"Sarah Stewart Taylor's debut mystery is an absolute delight. Sweeney St. George is the most intelligent, erudite, and sympathetic narrator to grace the academic mystery genre since Amanda Cross's Kate Fansler, and Taylor's complicated and multilayered plot is the perfect vehicle for her."-Ayelet Waldman, author of A Playdate with Death

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429909419
Publisher:
St. Martin's Press
Publication date:
04/01/2007
Series:
Sweeney St. George Mysteries , #1
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
471,279
File size:
0 MB

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