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.
About the Author
Jonathan Santlofer is the author of five novels and a highly respected artist whose work has been written about and reviewed in the New York Times, Art in America, Artforum, and Arts, and which appears in many public, private, and corporate collections. He lives and works in New York City.
Read an Excerpt
The Killing ArtA Novel of Suspense
By Jonathan Santlofer
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2005 Jonathan Santlofer
All right reserved.
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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Former NYPD detective Kate McKinnon has altered her life style more than once. She has seen the worst a detective possibly can, as well as seen the glamour and glitter of the elite social class. Now she wants only to have some quiet down time. ........................... Currently Kate is an art historian. She is writing a book about the New York School artists of the 1930s and 40s. When Detective Monty Murphy calls her, Kate puts it all on hold. Someone has slashed the de Kooning painting she donated to a museum in her late husband's honor. Kate and Monty team up and are on the hunt. ................. **** If you enjoy art then you will doubly enjoy the writings of author Jonathan Santlofer. This novel combines a detective thriller AND art work for you to contemplate. Personally, I've not read the author's previous novels involving Kate, but after reading this one I am seriously considering haunting a local book store in hopes of finding them. A terrific tale that will keep you reading late into the night. ****
Former NYPD detective Kate McKinnon quit the force after her husband was murdered to become an art historian. She was drawn back into police work when art and murder intersected in the cases of the DEATH ARTIST and the COLOR BLIND. Now she is writing a book about the New York School of abstract impressionists of the 1930¿s and 1940¿s like Phillip Zander. --- One of the paintings Kate donated to the Modernist Museum was slashed beyond repair and she later finds out that a Jackson Pollack painting was defaced in the sane manner a few weeks earlier. The same person ruins a Kline painting at the home of Kate¿s friends the Starnetts and kills the male member of the twosome. Kate is once again drawn into a murder case. The killer strikes three more times leaving a clue each time. Even when various police departments and the FBI finally believe they know who the killer was after he died in a shoot out, Kate is convinced that the person was not a murderer just a thief and con man. Acting on a hunch, she enters a scenario where innocent people could die. --- Jonathan Santlofer has written an exiting crime thriller that focuses on the cliques, petty jealousies and the competition for attention that is prevalent in the art world. The small paintings that contain the clue the killer sends to the victims are placed in various chapters in the book giving the plot an artsy feel and makes the reader feel that they are part of the investigation. The protagonist is a strong woman still recovering from the death of her husband but is determined so make a new life for herself. Readers with will eagerly await her next adventure. --- Harriet Klausner