My thoughts: Despite what the title implies, this mystery-of-sorts doesn't start with a death. And with only one artist in the cast of characters, Stef, her death is a foregone conclusion. Furthermore, who kills her is also (mostly) apparent from the beginning. The why is debated, but it's the how that makes this novel shine. Thus, Death of an Artist feels off kilter until Stef dies. It's rare to discover a mystery not concerned with who did it, or even why, and much of this novel is a character-based exploration of Stef, her art, and her family.
This novel took me a little time to get into because of its unusual structure. If I didn't know the title, I would not have thought the novel was a mystery. Once Stef did die, however, all of the backstory was incredibly helpful because it made me as a reader immediately on the side of Marnie. What seemed to be more of a family drama soon morphed into a conspiracy, and I was hooked.
Audio thoughts: Carrington MacDuffie eagerly embraces her ability to create distinctive voices for each character. While I appreciated the clear voices for each character, some of the voices appeared distractingly hokey at first, particular Marnie, Stef's mother. As I got used to these voices, however, I found the voices quite illustrative of each character's quirks and whims.
The verdict: A surprisingly smart resolution and well-developed characters balance out the lack of whodunit; Death of an Artist is all about the how.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 288 pages (8 hours, 1 minute)
Publication date: March 27, 2012
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Death of an Artist from an independent bookstore, the Book Depository or Amazon (Kindle edition.)
Want more? Visit Kate Wilhelm's website.
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