The Black Painting by Neil Olson
PUBLISHED BY HANOVER SQUARE PRESS
REVIEW BY CALLIE STEVEN
A family with a secret. The patriarch discovered dead, his face twisted in terror. A missing Goya painting. Throw in a cast of interesting characters, and you’ve got a great read on your hands.
The four Morse cousins are summoned back to the family seat of Owl Point with high hopes. Perfect lawyer Kenny and shy James have the first audience with their grandfather, but when Audrey and Teresa arrive, they find the old man dead in his study. This sets off a chain of events that threatens to unravel the entire clan, exposing secrets long kept hidden, not the least of which is who stole that Goya painting years before. We all have secrets, and this family seems to have more than their fair share, but how far will we go to protect them and the people we love?
Key family members argue a lot about money and who should get what in the old man’s will. So is it all about greed? Alfred Morse didn’t seem like a particularly caring man, and his family seem much more worried about the contents of his will than his actual death. Most of the family seem to have varying levels of nefarious motives, but to be honest, a lot of these characters come across as stereotypical selfish rich folk.
Some characters seem to rely on tropes, except for the key players Teresa, Audrey and private detective Dave. This is probably because the perspective of the novel alternates between them, which can sometimes be confusing, but does allow for interesting variety. The best parts of the book are those from Teresa’s perspective, as she examines her own foibles as well as confronting the faults in her family in a more natural and believable way. As an art student, she also allows for some interesting insight into the power of art and the effect it has on people in ways that does not seem forced.
While not perfect, it’s a thriller that keeps you guessing. Overall an interesting and often engrossing trip into an old-money East Coast family and the art world.
Find this novel in store at Planet Books. Ask the friendly staff for guidance too, and they’ll be more than happy to order you in a copy if it’s already sold out.