The Fine Art of Murder by Emily Barnes

the-fine-art-of-murder-by emily-barnesThe Fine Art of Murder by Emily Barnes
Series: Katherine Sullivan Mystery #1
Genre: Contemporary Mystery
Setting: Edina, Minnesota–now a suburb of Minneapolis
Published by Crooked Lane Books, 2016
Format: e-Arc (Release Date: Feb 9)
–I received a review copy of this book from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions stated here are entirely my own.
304 pages
Grade: B-
Synopsis: Former Police Chief Katherine Sullivan has been called brilliant, brave, compassionate, and quirky, but after decades of crime fighting, this resilient grandmother with an artist’s soul is discovering that retirement can be just as deadly as being on the job.

When Katherine returned to her hometown, her only thought was to comfort her recently divorced daughter. That was before a young woman was found murdered on the estate of the town’s richest family. Now, in order to track down the killer, Katherine must uncover the generations of secrets that at least one person as already killed to protect in this charming and smart series debut, The Fine Art of Murder.

Initial impressions

  • I like the characters in this book a lot. The mystery is interesting, but ultimately it is the characters who drew me in.

The story

  • A mansion with stolen artwork hidden somewhere in its walls (maybe some originally stolen by the Nazis). An intriguing premise.
  • Stolen artwork–rumored in its walls–some of it perhaps artwork originally stolen by the Nazis.
  • A young woman who works there is murdered and Katherine is asked by her attorney daughter to investigate.

The merits

  • I like Katherine Sullivan–especially since she’s an older protagonist. She’s a former police chief, widow (her husband was also a police officer and killed in the line-of-duty) and a strong, capable woman. I also really like her interactions with her daughter and her two grandchildren.  I also like the fact she has reinvented herself in retirement–moved to the Southwest where she’s now an artist.
  • I don’t have any personal experience with Asperger’s Syndrome, but the author seems to do a good job portraying Cameron–Katherine’s grandson.
  • I like Katherine’s remembrances into her past–for example, at the beginning of the book when she’s flying to her former hometown in Minnesota and thinks to herself that she used to buy new outfits to fly and now she sees a girl wearing purple and yellow pajamas!
  • Ms. Barnes is strongest in her characterizations. I felt I knew some of these characters.
  • I like how Katherine’s daughter Lizzie is portrayed. I feel her anger toward her ex-husband and her difficulties as a working mom are realistic.
  • The mystery is interesting and I like the art angle. Katherine’s reasons for helping her daughter are realistic and Katherine is able to reach out to one of her best friends and a former police officer who opened a security firm when he retired for help with the investigation.
  • Katherine’s friend, Nathan has an engaging group of people working for him. I really enjoyed getting to know all of them and hope they will be in future books.

The flaws

  • The book is written in first person so we only know Katherine’s thoughts. And I feel she is a little too perfect, but I like her a lot!
  • I kept waiting for more of a twist at the end of the story. It was a little flat at the end for me.

And a few thoughts . . .

  • I enjoyed this debut mystery and look forward to what happens in the next book. I wonder if Katherine is going to return to the Southwest and the stories will continue there? Or does she come back to Minnesota to solve her mysteries. There is a whiff of romance in Minnesota!

Author info

  • Emily Barnes lives in Clarksville, MO. An artist herself, she has published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. (Info from Crooked Lane Publishing)

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