"The Black Painting is a fast-paced psychological thriller with a fascinating set of characters caught in a web of family lies, deceits, secrets, mental instability and a possible murder. This powerful tale of love and betrayal centers around a sinister painting that may, or may not, be haunted. A real page-turner." —B.A. Shapiro, author of The Art Forger
"The volatility of memory, the treacherous crucible of family lore, and the myths and mysteries of Goya's Black Paintings all come hypnotically together in Neil Olson's outstanding novel. With taut, confident prose and breathless plotting, Olson leads us through a dark and dazzling kaleidoscope of a story. Here is a writer to watch." —Paula McLain, author of The Paris Wife and Circling the Sun
“Family money and long-held family secrets are at the heart of this gripping whodunit… a fast-paced, fun read that’s hard to put down.” —Mystery Scene
"Neil Olson's The Black Painting is an expertly confected, delicious mystery/thriller, and also a deeper study of the family romance, with echoes of Cheever's 'Goodbye, My Brother.'" —Madison Smartt Bell, author of Behind the Moon
"You'll need extra coffee in the morning because The Black Painting is going to keep you up reading way too late! A well-crafted psychological thriller with an intricate plot and first-rate characters, this deluxe suspense literally bursts with surprises. " —M.J. Rose, New York Times bestselling author of The Reincarnationist
"With its page-turning plot and moody atmospherics, Olson's tale proves seductive. ... Get ready for a thrilling ride through the worlds of the unhappy rich, whose acquisitions can prove very dangerous indeed." —Toronto Star
"[A] taut psychological thriller... This dark, supernaturally tinged tale ends on an unexpectedly hopeful note." —Publishers Weekly
"Olson explores the dynamics of a dysfunctional family and their relationship with Goya's terrifying self-portrait... a promising psychological thriller." —Kirkus Reviews
"This engrossing, dark psychological suspense tale will draw followers of art-based crime fiction." —Booklist
"This is an incredible plot with unknown twists that all readers who love mystery and suspense will thrive on." —Suspense Magazine
"The Black Painting explores the profound power of art and the past." —Eastbay Express
In this taut psychological thriller from Olson (The Icon), the heirs of the late Alfred Arthur Morse—his three children and four grandchildren—reunite for the first time in years, at his house on Owl’s Point on the Connecticut coast, for Alfred’s funeral and the reading of his will. Decades before, a painting was stolen from Alfred’s library, one of the 14 or 15 so-called black paintings produced by Francisco José de Goya at a time when the artist believed he was possessed by a demon. Morse family legend had it that anyone who looked at the painting would suffer death or some other misfortune. This myth was reinforced when an art historian, who came to appraise the painting, died while sitting in front of it. Philip, one of Alfred’s two sons, has only recently learned that his father suspected him of taking the painting, and hires PI Dave Webster to uncover the real thief. Dave is drawn into long-held family secrets that reveal how the black painting brought out the worst in each of the Morses. This dark, supernaturally tinged tale ends on an unexpectedly hopeful note. Mystery readers interested in art history will be rewarded. (Jan.)
Olson's second novel concerning art history (after The Icon) features a demon painted by Goya, part of a legendary cursed series of personal portraits. Arthur Morse, an avid collector, enjoyed the dark reputation of the painting hanging on his study wall, though he kept his back to it and never allowed his grandchildren into the room. During the funeral of Morse's wife, the painting is stolen, and the young children are the crime's only witnesses. The story begins several years later as the now adult children are summoned to their grandfather's house to learn about his plans for his estate. Teresa, haunted by her fractured childhood memories of the house, finds her grandfather dead when she arrives, a look of terror on his face. She and her cousins uncover long-buried secrets as personal and other painted demons come to the surface. Olson's novel moves easily from art mystery to psychological thriller, with tension and danger building as the characters' reliability shifts from chapter to chapter. VERDICT A quick and chilling read for fans of B.A. Shapiro, Noah Charney, and Iain Pears. [See Prepub Alert, 8/2/17.]—Catherine Lantz, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib.
After the death of its patriarch, a family is reunited to settle his estate and revisit the long-unsolved theft of a valuable and possibly cursed painting by Goya.In his second novel, Olson (The Icon, 2005) explores the dynamics of a dysfunctional family and their relationship with Goya's terrifying self-portrait—part of the notorious Black Paintings collection he created at Quinta del Sordo in the early 1820s. The promising setup begins with the discovery of Alfred Morse's body by his granddaughter Teresa, who, along with her three cousins, had been summoned by their grandfather for private interviews at his estate, which none of them had visited since the painting was stolen when they were children. Shortly thereafter, the story flounders with disjointed scenes that have little relevance to the painting's theft, including a sexual encounter between Dave Webster, a private eye hired to find the missing artwork, and Audrey, one of the cousins. Clichés abound with the reading of the will, which leaves the bulk of Morse's estate to Ilsa, his loyal housekeeper and suspected lover. Readers get a better picture of the cousins' personalities when they reunite that evening to discuss their inheritance, the painting, and their lives. Angered by their grandfather's demands, they burn the letters that accompanied his will saying they will each receive $250,000 if they get needed treatment for medical or psychiatric problems. The pace picks up halfway through when Teresa and Dave join forces to figure out who stole the painting and where it is. They discover sordid family secrets and specific details of the events that led to the painting's disappearance, triggering a memory Teresa had repressed of that night.Olson lures the reader with a promising psychological thriller but disappoints by merely scratching the surface of psychosis and terror.