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Review: The Art of Murder by Michael White

Submitted by on May 6, 2011 – 4:00 am2 Comments

Author: Michael White
Book: The Art of Murder
Release: October 28, 2010
Series: Novel
Source: Personal Library
Purchase: – Book Depository 

In all his years on the force, Detective Chief Inspector Pendragon had never seen a corpse like this one. After the initial horror, he recognized the reference to the surrealist painter, Magritte. But that made the crime even more sickening – accomplished, as it had been, with a sickening ferocity which placed it in another league from common or garden homicide. In the Whitechapel area of London in the 1880s, a person, who remains unidentified to this day, committed a series of sadistic murders of local prostitutes, which involved elaborate mutilation of the victims’ bodies. Although the contemporary crimes are not directed exclusively at female targets, there is grotesque similarity in the mindset of the two perpetrators – divided, as they are, by more than a century. But Pendragon is determined that his pathologically brilliant killer will not escape detection.

I have this rule – when my local bookstore has a ‘buy one get 50% off on second purchase’ deal I always buy one book by an author I’ve never read before. This way, if the book is a fail I feel I haven’t wasted my hard earned book cash but if it’s a success – I now have a new author to follow.

So a few weeks ago when I saw the store was having a sale I followed my rule and picked up Michael White’s . The title drew me in and the blurb that mentioned the most famous killer in history (Jack the Ripper) well, I had to get it! I’m happy to say this was one of the successes of my rule.

Try and imagining a body looking like this

Detective Chief Inspector Pendragon of the Brick Lane police station in London is summoned to the scene of a horrific murder at an art gallery – it seems the murderer has a bit of an artistic bent and has decided to follow in the footsteps of surrealist painters – only in this case – the artwork is the body. From Magritte’s Son of Man, to Dali’s The Clocks and even Francis Bacon the murderer is on a rampage and Pendragon is running out of time before another murder is committed.

Meanwhile, in 1888 Whitechapel London we meet William Sandler. Through a series of letters we get to know the child who would one day terrorize the streets of London – who he is and how he became the most notorious murderer of the 19th century.

How does this connect with the modern day mystery? Well, I can’t give that away now can I? As we get deeper into the book and the murders keep piling up (gotta love that about all these series… it just isn’t a real mystery unless you have 5 bodies or more) the connection between past and present is understood.

was a really fascinating read, I truly enjoyed this plot driven novel, and although I found out mid-read that this is the second book featuring Inspector Pendragon I didn’t feel like I was out of the loop. Like I said – plot driven novel, the characters at many points seem to play second fiddle. That’s not to say the main characters aren’t well written but they aren’t what drives the book forward.

The gruesome murders were actually quite interesting to try and imagine and while at first I thought the flashbacks to Victorian England would annoy me, they didn’t. William Sandler’s letters were creepy in the extreme but his character was the most well written one in the whole book and yes, as crazy as it seems Michael White managed to make me feel slightly sympathetic towards this extremely unsympathetic character. Not to worry, I got over that sympathy soon enough!

As for the mystery itself – it was so much fun trying to figure out whodunnit and while I did succeed in finding out who the murderer was before the end of the book, the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of it all was still a mystery so it was still a surprise when the end came along. The Art of Murder was definitely one of those books you enjoy finishing in one sitting and yes, I may have taken some pictures off my walls for a few weeks after reading it (hey, you would too!) It was a fun read and I would have happily paid full price for it.

And a special note to Italian history loving Doll Day – The first book featuring our Detective Inspector is called the and another book by the same author is called ! I will definitely be picking those books up at my next bookstore visit. :D

Happy Reading!

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Noa first fell in love with books when she discovered 100 acre wood and its inhabitants. To this day, the last pages of “The House at Pooh Corner” make her cry. In a good way. From“Calvin and Hobbes” to “The Iliad and the Odyssey” and lets not forget “Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes”. Biographies, mysteries, history books and romances all have a place on her bookshelves. Who needs furniture? This 29 year old singleton’s dream is to invent the zero-calorie chocolate. But until that day arrives, she tries to create sweet confections with whatever chocolate she can find. An MA in conflict studies (need a mediator?) means Noa loves a good debate, especially when she wins. If she were in charge, books would be free for everyone.
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