In Halt's debut mystery, an art gallery co-owner is sent a painting depicting her slain in a bathtub—and then the scene plays out for real.
In 1980s Cologne, Germany, American Amanda Lee and German Marlene Eichler own the Lee Eichler Gallery. Glamorous Marlene laments her divorce from prominent architect Wolf Eichler, with whom she remains friends. However, she also enjoys high-end shopping, posh salon visits, and sex with wealthy, married art collectors and pickups at questionable clubs. A major show is about to open at the gallery, featuring the death-inspired works of leading artist Klaus Kruger. Art critic Dieter Becker works with Marlene to promote it, and he feels entitled to kickbacks from gallery sales for his efforts. Amanda refuses, infuriating the critic, who hides a dark past. Then Amanda finds Marlene slashed to death in abathtub, and it turns out that Marlene had received a mysterious package at the gallery—one that contained a painting of her own future murder. Kommissar Fredrich Grutzmacher and his underling Ernst Rudolf investigate both Amanda and Wolf as potential suspects. Readers will find this chilling story hard to put down, as the crimes (yes, plural) are gruesome and the suspects, numerous. The author, who once lived in Germany, captures the edgy atmosphere of that country's art and club scenes in the '80s, and she offers richly developed characters along the way; at one point, for instance, the entitled Marlene insists that a married lover appear with her in public at an expensive restaurant—where she then orders a pricey bottle of champagne. Indeed, luxury is everywhere in vivid descriptions of cashmere and silk attire, high-performance sports cars, and fine wine and food. The pacing is also well calibrated as the action moves from scares in the dark to sensual trysts.
An engagingly written mystery featuring art, glamour, sex, love, and murder.