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In 2006, the art world has moved far beyond sheep in formaldehyde and the most avant-garde movement is to use living people as artwork. Undergoing weeks of preparation to become 'canvases', the models are required to stay in their pose for ten to twelve hours a day and, as art pieces, they are also for sale. After being exhibited, the 'canvases' can be bought and taken to In 2006, the art world has moved far beyond sheep in formaldehyde and the most avant-garde movement is to use living people as artwork. Undergoing weeks of preparation to become 'canvases', the models are required to stay in their pose for ten to twelve hours a day and, as art pieces, they are also for sale. After being exhibited, the 'canvases' can be bought and taken to the purchaser's home, where they are rented for weeks or months. Many beautiful young men and women long to become a 'canvas' - knowing they are a masterpeice and worth millions seems to make all the sacrifices worthwhile - especially if they can be 'painted' by the celebrated artist Bruno Van Tysch. But there is a darker side to this art movement when it is found that the models/works of art are sometimes used in interactive works - snuff movies, where the 'art' is filmed being tortured and killed. Van Tysch's work is being targeted and the investigators must find the killer before the displays of imitations of Rembrandt's masterpieces - the biggest exhibition of 'hyperdramatic art' yet seen - is put on show.


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In 2006, the art world has moved far beyond sheep in formaldehyde and the most avant-garde movement is to use living people as artwork. Undergoing weeks of preparation to become 'canvases', the models are required to stay in their pose for ten to twelve hours a day and, as art pieces, they are also for sale. After being exhibited, the 'canvases' can be bought and taken to In 2006, the art world has moved far beyond sheep in formaldehyde and the most avant-garde movement is to use living people as artwork. Undergoing weeks of preparation to become 'canvases', the models are required to stay in their pose for ten to twelve hours a day and, as art pieces, they are also for sale. After being exhibited, the 'canvases' can be bought and taken to the purchaser's home, where they are rented for weeks or months. Many beautiful young men and women long to become a 'canvas' - knowing they are a masterpeice and worth millions seems to make all the sacrifices worthwhile - especially if they can be 'painted' by the celebrated artist Bruno Van Tysch. But there is a darker side to this art movement when it is found that the models/works of art are sometimes used in interactive works - snuff movies, where the 'art' is filmed being tortured and killed. Van Tysch's work is being targeted and the investigators must find the killer before the displays of imitations of Rembrandt's masterpieces - the biggest exhibition of 'hyperdramatic art' yet seen - is put on show.

30 review for The Art of Murder

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jana

    There are some exquisite books on the market. Gargoyle and Technosmose were deranged, but Davidson is a toddler in comparison with Somoza, and Mathieu Terence is Somoza’s equal but much colder writer. Extravagance of this book is definitely not going to hit everyone’s buttons and this is probably the main reason why this book isn’t popular and will not be heart openly welcomed by majority. Maybe I’m writing wrong review here, putting Davidson and Terence in the same box with Somoza, giving the There are some exquisite books on the market. Gargoyle and Technosmose were deranged, but Davidson is a toddler in comparison with Somoza, and Mathieu Terence is Somoza’s equal but much colder writer. Extravagance of this book is definitely not going to hit everyone’s buttons and this is probably the main reason why this book isn’t popular and will not be heart openly welcomed by majority. Maybe I’m writing wrong review here, putting Davidson and Terence in the same box with Somoza, giving the first one bigger credit than he deserves, the second one is still so unknown and creepy that I need to mention him wherever, and taking the attention from José Carlos Somoza. But what I wanted to say; all three books have factors of incredible originality, brutality and are debatable. It was evident from the first page that Somoza knows his word craft and it’s not possible not to read this book with a double mindset. I was thinking about two things: this book is extremely provocative and gripping, and second, writer is appallingly imaginative and smart person. Which is what many people say when they find certain authors that are a bit different. But, in the same line of popularity, this is the main reason why Somoza is never going to be interesting enough for masses. He is in a literal way – unique, intuitive, hard to absorb, pushing readers moral boundaries and genuinely philosophical. Which you would expect from one psychiatrist. I’ve read his 'The Athenian Murders', bad English translation, originally from Spanish, 'The Cave of Ideas' and it was heavy stuff. I hadn’t thoroughly understood deepness and abstractness of the book’s topic which needed my previous knowledge of, and not just glanced over, Greek culture and again philosophy. But it was very much consuming and educational, and it stuck in my mind. So Somoza again repeated himself: he forged and mastered his words in this intriguing ART thriller that just bursts with tension, intrigue and outstanding plot. And English translators again did the same wrong thing with the title. Instead of writing, 'Clara and the Shade', they named the book, 'Art of Murder', and by doing this gave it some ordinary mish-mash title. And the only thing that you do during the reading is juggle your brain with Somoza’s graphic ARTistic visions of today’s scene. You can or cope or don’t cope with his turbo over the top homage to modern art. Question is, are you into modern art and grotesque that can follow it, are you into any expressive art? Can you push your brain? If not, you will quit reading this book, if yes, you will feel like you’ve been hit by an inspirational avalanche. The whole concept of this book is based on this idea: hyperdramatic art and hyperdramatic art-shock. Sounds strange and distant? Well it is. It’s a new way of art, using living people as artwork. They go to schools where they learn how to prepare themselves to become a master work. That is the main goal, to achieve that body-mind-emotion-soul perfection to actually succeed in achieving that highest art position: to stop being a human and to become a canvas further painted on. They get primed, use medicine to minimize their body functions (breathing, urine, menstruation, coldness and sweat, tears, fast heart pounding, hunger, saliva). They get tortured and degraded emotionally, psychologically and physically to confront themselves with their nonexistent SELF, and to subdue themselves to their painter’s wishes. They get stretched in awkward body positions where their memories and mind stop functioning and reacting to pain impulses and enter meditative state of 'Peace and Calmness' where they no longer consciously exist, yet, they have to be able to express every needed canvas emotion on their face, but without interfering with their own needs. They are even not referred to as people, but function entirely as an object. Art collectors buy these paintings and they pose in their houses from six to twelve hours a day, never having any reaction with their audience. 'Canvases' worst fears are to be replaced by new canvases, who are more agile/younger/with better emotion expressions. Collectors pay better if the painting is made on the first, original girl/boy, instead of buying the same thing on the second (3rd, 4th...) living reproduction. Clara is the girl, chosen to represent the most spectacular hyperdramatic art, from the mysterious Dutch master Bruno van Tysch. But problems start culminating when safely guarded girls, get brutally murdered... I never imagined human degradation/fetishism in this way, especially when those who fail to achieve famous career, end up being functional furniture or decorative objects such as Chair, Lamp, Table, Ashtray, Coat hanger. Hyperdramatic art-shock is the most extreme and illegal performance of HD. It is interactive, sadistic, pornographic and often filmed as snuff movie. This book is disturbing, fetishistic and brilliant. Thriller part of it wasn’t really capturing my attention, but philosophical parts are magnificent. Dark stuff is mixing your own perspective of what is actually moral and human. And is modern art really without any ethics. If we free our minds, are mutilated paintings Objects or People? Based on my review written like this black on white, you don’t really have any dilemmas. Of course they are humans, but JC Somoza is a genius, you do advanced yoga with your mind during the reading. I know I was questioning myself all the time. At moments, I was utterly disgusted and fascinated like I’ve never been with any other art book. And it’s not just about art. It’s about capitalism, value degradations, personal freedom and space, the line between nudity-prostitution-pornography. Where is the line between physical beauty-paedophilia-aging. Are Rembrandt/Picasso great because their paintings today are worth millions, or if their paintings weren’t worth millions would they still be called master painters. Somoza is challenging and questioning everything. You will as well, you will absolutely hate this book or you will love it because it makes you think and it makes you think long after you finish it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Sveti

    This is a book written with cinematic approach. It has an interesting idea, and is written in a captivating fashion but that's as far as the good things go. In my opinion this isn't a good book, it is something you can kill time with. I didn't like it because the way I judge books is very specific - I insist that it should either be incredibly funny in an intelligent way or it should have a profound message. The only valuable idea this book provides is that objectifying human beings is evil. But This is a book written with cinematic approach. It has an interesting idea, and is written in a captivating fashion but that's as far as the good things go. In my opinion this isn't a good book, it is something you can kill time with. I didn't like it because the way I judge books is very specific - I insist that it should either be incredibly funny in an intelligent way or it should have a profound message. The only valuable idea this book provides is that objectifying human beings is evil. But that's not written explicitly, most of the book simply tickles our curiosity in a perverse and voyeuristic way. I kept waiting for it to offer something more, but it didn't. There was no light in it, just like there was none at all in "The Perfume". I know that many people will disagree with me, because both books are written with the touch of talent, but the question is: "What is this talent used for?" - Depicting the ill side of human psyche in such an elaborate manner is not a good thing. After reading it I felt like I've watched a movie, not a good one. We should be careful what seeds we plant in our heads, because whatever we put in it will develop sooner or later. That is fact many people forget. P.S. I'm sorry if I hurt anyone's feeling but I had to be honest. And that doesn't necessarily have to be pleasant.

  3. 4 out of 5

    JackieB

    This is an amazing thriller. The suspense builds up and the book gets darker and darker as it progresses. At the end I literally screamed out loud at one point because the suspense got too much for me. I've read all sorts in my time but I've never actually screamed at a book before. Luckily I was alone at home so I didn't get any strange looks from anyone. However this books also explores issues around modern art. How far could it go? What IS art? Who decides if something is art or not? I enjoye This is an amazing thriller. The suspense builds up and the book gets darker and darker as it progresses. At the end I literally screamed out loud at one point because the suspense got too much for me. I've read all sorts in my time but I've never actually screamed at a book before. Luckily I was alone at home so I didn't get any strange looks from anyone. However this books also explores issues around modern art. How far could it go? What IS art? Who decides if something is art or not? I enjoyed that part of the book too but if you are not interested in it it's mainly introduced as thoughts or comments made by various characters so you could just let that part wash over you and not engage with it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Iztok

    I gave it two stars, primarily because the author ruined a perfectly interesting plot with two many unnecessary passages which lead to nowhere. Numerous flash backs, dull discussions ... Too much of everything. The novel would be an excellent crime story if shortened by half.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    Wow.

  6. 5 out of 5

    S.H. Villa

    Sleaze and soft porn about sums it up for me. I admit I couldn’t bring myself to read the whole book – the first hundred pages and bits of the middle and end. I felt like Mary Whitehouse – remember her! So here’s my rant: The idea of covering young attractive people, mainly female, with paint then requiring them to hold a pose without moving for 6 to 8 hours a day is interesting. Presumably it occurred to the author, seeing all the busking ‘statues’ around city centres, painted and still. But in Sleaze and soft porn about sums it up for me. I admit I couldn’t bring myself to read the whole book – the first hundred pages and bits of the middle and end. I felt like Mary Whitehouse – remember her! So here’s my rant: The idea of covering young attractive people, mainly female, with paint then requiring them to hold a pose without moving for 6 to 8 hours a day is interesting. Presumably it occurred to the author, seeing all the busking ‘statues’ around city centres, painted and still. But in the book these were mainly naked females including adolescents, ‘primed’ as canvases. Señor Somoza might have done some physiology research. If you cover anyone completely with paint, any kind of paint, they will die in a lot less than 6 hours. Our bodies breathe not only through lungs but through our skin. Remember the dead woman in Goldfinger? Covered in gold paint without a little patch left to breathe through, she died. Somoza also mentions them being primed with zinc white and lead white. Both are toxic if one is covered in it, lead white especially so. No one would survive long. I suppose a work of fiction can take what licence it cares to, but if he wants us to believe in the people/paintings, which he spends hundreds of pages telling us about in detail he could have been more realistic about how they were painted. These naked young women, depilated except for their heads, are put through not just the process of being painted and unmoving for 6-8 hours/day, sometimes in postures which result in them being taken away on stretchers at the end of the day, but are also ‘stretched’. This appears to be a mixture of participation in the art work plus challenges set by the artist up to including outright abuse. These people must give up all personality and submit to the artist. Is this sounding more and more like the Marquis de Sade’s basement? The people/paintings are sold. They go off with the buyer for a specified period – months or years – and ‘work’ 8 hour days being a work of art. Sometimes there are substitutes who take over. The venue could be anywhere in the world. Somoza doesn’t tell us how they are repainted each day, an essential, I would have thought, to remaining a work of art. He does tell us that the buyer pays ‘rent’. Of course, these naked young women, some as young as 12, will be perfectly safe because no art collector would imagine anything improper. Young men are involved as well. As well as the ‘canvases’ there are human ‘ornaments’ who perform functions such as waiting on tables while naked, depilated and painted. They can be bought and collected. One hardly notices that the purple waitress has her shaved purple pudenda in your face. Other ornaments are for touching. Well, it all turns out that art is destruction as well as creation. The end of the book was sheer narcissism. There is something of half-spoken sexual fantasy in all this. Something guilty and dirty that cannot quite be spoken. It’s unattractive, to say the least. End rant.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Linda Branham Greenwell

    I have to admit it was not a great murder mystery. However it was an interesting approach and question about what constitutes art. Somoza raises really provocative questions as to what we would do for art, is art good because of the way it is marketed and is it better for having a hefty price tag? People posing are considered art. Their whole life consists of "being" art. There are impossible positions which are held for long periods of time. People are bought and sold to hold these poses in diff I have to admit it was not a great murder mystery. However it was an interesting approach and question about what constitutes art. Somoza raises really provocative questions as to what we would do for art, is art good because of the way it is marketed and is it better for having a hefty price tag? People posing are considered art. Their whole life consists of "being" art. There are impossible positions which are held for long periods of time. People are bought and sold to hold these poses in different places - even in personal homes. They are not considered as "people" but as "art" There are even people who are chairs, lights, serving trays, etc. Again, they are dismissed as being people - only as being "objects." They are paid - they train for their jobs. But they are "objects". CAn you imagine training for, and then spending your working days as a "lamp" ? Nudity in the art "objects" is also addressed. There are people who protest that art is only young nude females. As I said ... an interesting concept, bizzare and unusual... the story of the mystery itself was just real interesting to me. Others may love it

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hertzan Chimera

    'read' means 120 pages in and 'just didn't get it'. couldn't struggle on with it. it meant nothing to me - no story, no characters, no titillation even, just some kids getting painted. book didn't seem to know what it wanted to be, horror, fantasy, police investigation, thriller? gah, 1* and unfinished. 'read' means 120 pages in and 'just didn't get it'. couldn't struggle on with it. it meant nothing to me - no story, no characters, no titillation even, just some kids getting painted. book didn't seem to know what it wanted to be, horror, fantasy, police investigation, thriller? gah, 1* and unfinished.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Djj

    Loved this book. A fairly pedestrian mystery, but the mystery is not the point. Somoza considers questions about art in a near future humans themselves are canvasses and artists arrange them as painted living statues. It's fascinating. Sounds silly, and might have been with a lesser author, but he pulls it off. Loved this book. A fairly pedestrian mystery, but the mystery is not the point. Somoza considers questions about art in a near future humans themselves are canvasses and artists arrange them as painted living statues. It's fascinating. Sounds silly, and might have been with a lesser author, but he pulls it off.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Hilary

    One of the most thought-provoking books I have read in a long time. A really interesting and gripping concept. I couldn't put it down. Highly recommended. One of the most thought-provoking books I have read in a long time. A really interesting and gripping concept. I couldn't put it down. Highly recommended.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Veddry

    Interesting way to learn about art. Never would think of modern art in that way.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Antula

    If I haven`t read `The Athenian Murders` first, I would give it 5 stars. This way it is more 4 1/2 stars. Still, both books are pure pleasure to read and consider about. If I haven`t read `The Athenian Murders` first, I would give it 5 stars. This way it is more 4 1/2 stars. Still, both books are pure pleasure to read and consider about.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Razan Sijeeni

    Beautiful, antagonizing, and inhuman... but it shows how far art can go

  14. 5 out of 5

    Benoît

    The artistic premise, people as material for art, is excellent. Intriguing, exciting, full of possibilities. Somoza treats them reasonably well: he plays on submission, body and mind, the search for the sublime, accepting the illusion of art, and smartly weaves danger in there. He also invents a whole art world to go with it that is just the right balance between slightly ridiculous, definitely daring and rather credible. If thematically top notch, the book struggles with itself with a big lack The artistic premise, people as material for art, is excellent. Intriguing, exciting, full of possibilities. Somoza treats them reasonably well: he plays on submission, body and mind, the search for the sublime, accepting the illusion of art, and smartly weaves danger in there. He also invents a whole art world to go with it that is just the right balance between slightly ridiculous, definitely daring and rather credible. If thematically top notch, the book struggles with itself with a big lack of tension and suspense. This is shipwrecked by an entire side of the book dedicated to a security team that is dull and bo-ring. This has a snowball effect on the other characters: the main, Clara, tends to become less visible through the book and to get less complex, Gerardo and Van Tysch are developed too late. Meanwhile, the mystery does not leave much of an impression and is quite anti-climatic. Still, I was hooked until the middle, and it stayed a good book despite its important flaws, reminding me most of Les Racines du Mal by Dantec. Maybe I demand too much from my romans noirs.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Malcolm

    Sometimes an author does something really original. I think this is one of those cases. Whilst ostensibly a crime novel that description does not really fit the bill. What the author does is create a world that is quite different from our own in one very specific respect and this difference is fundamental to the story. A new art movement has led to models becoming the actual canvas on which a masterpiece is created. If a canvas is murdered then is the crime murder or the destruction of art. Is t Sometimes an author does something really original. I think this is one of those cases. Whilst ostensibly a crime novel that description does not really fit the bill. What the author does is create a world that is quite different from our own in one very specific respect and this difference is fundamental to the story. A new art movement has led to models becoming the actual canvas on which a masterpiece is created. If a canvas is murdered then is the crime murder or the destruction of art. Is the victim the human being or the work of art. I really enjoyed this novel take on a Murder mystery and felt that the author could have gone down the 'French lieutenant' root by offering two endings. Instead he found a way to present both options in one narrative and did it successfully. The solving of the murder was largely irrelevant. It was the journey rather than the destination that was the reward. I will be thinking about this the next time I visit a gallery. Highly recommended.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kerri

    As an avid dystopian reader, the essence of the book drew me in; a theme that could believably happen in our society throwing into question the limits of art and human rights. There, I found something good to say about this book. It's a shame that this book worked much better in theory than in reality. It tried to be too many things at once and failed: a murder mystery, a dystopian commentary on society and delicate prose do not meld and the author had to compromise on all these fronts. I felt hi As an avid dystopian reader, the essence of the book drew me in; a theme that could believably happen in our society throwing into question the limits of art and human rights. There, I found something good to say about this book. It's a shame that this book worked much better in theory than in reality. It tried to be too many things at once and failed: a murder mystery, a dystopian commentary on society and delicate prose do not meld and the author had to compromise on all these fronts. I felt his style of writing would have been more suited to a cinematic portrayal. His use of cheap shocks made it seem amateurish. This was also true when the characters openly discussed issues treating the reader as an idiot that cannot decipher and imply things for themselves. Overall, disappointed.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Rania Taranta

    This is a great what-if story, the idea of the human body as canvas for hyperrealistic works of art is very original and captivating. Unfortunately not a very good murder mystery, Poirot would have solved it by page 50. Still, this could have been a great book if it wasn't that long. I kept asking myself "where did the editor go?" while reading it. I felt like I was bombarded with hundreds of ideas and descriptions that the writer tried to squeeze in the book, but many of them were unimportant a This is a great what-if story, the idea of the human body as canvas for hyperrealistic works of art is very original and captivating. Unfortunately not a very good murder mystery, Poirot would have solved it by page 50. Still, this could have been a great book if it wasn't that long. I kept asking myself "where did the editor go?" while reading it. I felt like I was bombarded with hundreds of ideas and descriptions that the writer tried to squeeze in the book, but many of them were unimportant and could have been left out. I would go for three stars if after closing the book I didn't have the feeling that I had just watched a movie. Cinematic writing is not my cup of tea. Yes, this story would have made a great movie, but it needed better writing and/or editing to become a great book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Eleanor

    Hands down the best book I have ever read. Completely absorbing and you will never view humanity the same way again after finishing it. Couldn't recommend this book enough. My only regret is that it sat on my shelf unread for so many years. Hands down the best book I have ever read. Completely absorbing and you will never view humanity the same way again after finishing it. Couldn't recommend this book enough. My only regret is that it sat on my shelf unread for so many years.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Nelly Staneva

    predictable plot, but nice language and very arty

  20. 5 out of 5

    Ethan Mackey

    One of the best books I have read. Fantastic murder novel / reflection of what art means.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tsvetomir Pavlov

    Really good. Great plot idea - believable twist. The only reason I am not giving 5 stars is that I cannot put it next to my all time favorites. Recommend it!

  22. 4 out of 5

    Eva Riera

    An expectional book

  23. 4 out of 5

    Cian

    A thoroughly dark book. The sense of chiaroscuro throughout is increasingly electric. The text itself is delightfully and sometimes frightfully imagistic, with painterly depictions - realistic, other times impressionist, expressionist or even surreally observed (and only coming into clear focus with time - as with misleading cinema edits). I read much of the book with the smell of oil paint firm in my mind (I painted in ochre for several days straight and the colour happens to recur frequently), A thoroughly dark book. The sense of chiaroscuro throughout is increasingly electric. The text itself is delightfully and sometimes frightfully imagistic, with painterly depictions - realistic, other times impressionist, expressionist or even surreally observed (and only coming into clear focus with time - as with misleading cinema edits). I read much of the book with the smell of oil paint firm in my mind (I painted in ochre for several days straight and the colour happens to recur frequently), as though it were constantly implicit in the text. Some of the passages were picturesquely beautiful, or impressively perceptive - other single sentences shook me so much in picturing them that I had to put the book down to get past thinking of how terrible they were, and how much more frightful their cause. The book is gory, one ought know that in advance. Somoza doesn't linger over gore. But it is almost always artistic, and even if not (if you're particularly visual) the image of those single sentences will burn into your mind regardless. In other words, this is not a splatter-film-as-book in its gore, but individual descriptions (sometimes in unexpected places - descriptions of performances rather than crimescenes) you will be surprised and masterfully horified. Violence, against women and children as well as men, a latent air of BDSM, torture, child nudity before adult viewers, grotesque settings, dismemberment and more features (so if any of those things are right-out for you, be forewarned - though they are insofar as possible tastefully managed), and there is one very brief but distressing case description of the fictitious double-homicide and rape of a mother and child. In exchange for this? In the first instance, as said, sometimes the nightmares in the book are beautiful like a more aggressive L'Morte d'Arthur cover (I think of the cupped decapitated head). For the most part however, the author is building a suspense for the reader of a relation between art and the terrible - one which I think is ultimately convincing. A sense is achieved of art as the ultimate moral relativist, its limits only ever delayed. Somoza also creates a pretty convincing (I write that as one who studied art history for four years, and who has worked with a large collection) new form of art, its clientele, culture, paraphernalia, terminology, population from conservation to models..., movements and individuals within it - it is a frightening art at its softest (and yet I couldn't help but visualise each piece and puzzle over achieving some perhaps in a moderated way...), but it is impressive and impressively convincing. The author has his own divine breath giving life to that entire creation and its diversity. There is also more to the narrative than simply murder-mystery. It explores so much more than that. A contention is produced, with morality as its main battleground, between art and humanity. I was genuinely frightened for a moment when crucially uncertain as to which side I was on. I remember Sue Perkins once saying that literary fiction could do with the structure and drive (having-a-point-ness?) of genre fiction, the latter the quality, thought and zest of the former. I think Somoza definitely has it. His painterly writing translates very well, I suspect - the book is certainly highly readable, just as it is hugely inventive and introspectively probing. Characterisation throughout is appealing, well-worked and varied. Real human beings work and live in his dark fantasy somehow made reality. I saw that one reader felt the book very good, but not excellent as they found the Athenian Murders. Encountering an author for the first time however has a particular impact. It is years since reading the previous book for me. Yet the respective focii of both art and classical philosophy are of great (and usually connected) importance for me. Perhaps the earlier book had an intensity to it that was only natural - it is set in a smaller world, of more limited communication, and one not of a very near future realised by the author himself, but of a real past partially lost which he is exploring. AM also has a very singularly defined protagonist, whereas AoM has several letting us encounted from their eyes various slices of his world. AM has the tension of stage drama - it is both brooding and bubbling, but very inward. A of M has a tension of things stretched, tenuously holding together. Like to rip. The threat within it is of both a far wider yet more intimately personal scale. I would perhaps suggest AM first for anyone uncertain of the more violent content here - it is generally milder (though still with brutality, fright and the grotesque...yet artful nonetheless) and thus a preferable way of exploring the author's management of these things.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jam

    The basic premise of the book is that at some point around the 1950s, it became common for artists to use people as canvases. A canvas stays in one position for hours, is prepped to become a blank state, physically and mentally, so the artist can use them to create art. The canvas is, wants to be, perfect for the artist to work on and aims to give up their *self* for the eight hours a day they are that painting, for the time that painting is on show, until someone else becomes the canvas and the The basic premise of the book is that at some point around the 1950s, it became common for artists to use people as canvases. A canvas stays in one position for hours, is prepped to become a blank state, physically and mentally, so the artist can use them to create art. The canvas is, wants to be, perfect for the artist to work on and aims to give up their *self* for the eight hours a day they are that painting, for the time that painting is on show, until someone else becomes the canvas and the original canvas becomes a different piece of art. And someone is destroying art, murdering the greatest pieces (starting with arguably the most valuable canvas who is also 14-year old girl and moving on). It's murder, but also, and much more of a priority for most of the people involved, it's the destruction of art worth millions. The canvases have personality, history, when they're not on. It's the appetite to lose that and become art that makes it more disturbing. They want to have their skin dyed, to stand absolutely still and void, showing only what the artist has put there, those emotions, to be the first canvas for a piece. They want to becomes things, and that's leaving aside Objects, people who become chairs, lights, tables. What they get out of it are wages, but mostly what they get is being this piece of Art. The ambition is to be the first canvas of a famous piece of painting, the one that people remember as it, even if a hundred other canvases become that painting later. What it takes from them is devotion and sometimes health, because people are not meant to hold positions like that for hours on end. It takes them letting themelves be broken down into blankness and remade into something else-- and then when that painting is done, being prepped and "stretched" again for the next painting. The mystery is interesting, not for who did it or who dies, but for how it reflects this world. It's disturbing, it's well-written and the translation is pretty good. Not 100% natural, but that wasn't a problem for me since the characters are meant to come from different countries so quirks of language make sense. The thing that didn't work for me was that this art had become pretty much the only significant kind. Part of that is the perspective of the people in the book, canvases, collectors, artists, etc. But music is barely mentioned, oldfashioned artists are strange. Dance isn't covered. These things exists, but the only thing that's really Art is this particular style. The lack of music, of acknowledgement of anything outside of it just seems so bizarre to me.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    I FINALLY read this after having it checked out for over three years (thanks, IU!) as an antidote to all the children's/YA lit I've read over the past semester, and it served its purpose well. The author considers many fascinating questions on what society values in art, and while some of the concepts took some time getting used to, I really enjoyed seeing how art could translate into human form, and how they correspond to art in the real world (originals vs. knock-offs, high vs. low, etc.). I e I FINALLY read this after having it checked out for over three years (thanks, IU!) as an antidote to all the children's/YA lit I've read over the past semester, and it served its purpose well. The author considers many fascinating questions on what society values in art, and while some of the concepts took some time getting used to, I really enjoyed seeing how art could translate into human form, and how they correspond to art in the real world (originals vs. knock-offs, high vs. low, etc.). I especially liked the author's ability to draw attention to the historical hypocrisy of art patronage, which often justified the sexualization of women in the name of art (this brought back happy memories of discussions from my art history days). This being said, there are some EXTREMELY graphic elements to the book (both the murders and the descriptions of human art), which made it often hard to really enjoy the book and meant that a couple of parts had to be skimmed. Also, some of the investigation definitely drags, and I thought the ultimate answers were pretty obvious and the murderer's reasons weren't terribly compelling. This isn't a bad book by any means, but its real strength comes from the ideas rather than the mystery itself.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Leila

    This is an extravagant book with very original views on art. Therefore I feel like this book can be either strongly disliked or greatly liked, but it can’t leave you indifferent. You can’t say “it’s an ok read” for a book like this: the ideas of this book are too extreme and surprising. Somoza is a talented writer with a wild imagination. His books are at the same time gripping, disturbing and provocative. You can agree or disagree on what you read in those book, but it’s always difficult to put This is an extravagant book with very original views on art. Therefore I feel like this book can be either strongly disliked or greatly liked, but it can’t leave you indifferent. You can’t say “it’s an ok read” for a book like this: the ideas of this book are too extreme and surprising. Somoza is a talented writer with a wild imagination. His books are at the same time gripping, disturbing and provocative. You can agree or disagree on what you read in those book, but it’s always difficult to put down. This book is no exception. Its ideas are actually so surprising and different from everything I’ve ever read on art, that I honestly hesitated between 5 stars and 3 stars. I finally decided on 5 because the book is brilliant. Also, all the inovative ideas put aside, it’s a dark and gripping thriller. Somoza skillfully builds up suspense through the book to culminate it in a madly paced and crazy ending. All in all, I highly recommend it for its ideas, for its writing, for its story, for its unrelenting suspense. Even if you decide at the end that you didn’t like it, I think you won’t regret having read it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Smith

    a provacative near future mystery. humans as canvases for art that have to be 'stretched' and 'primed'. the better ones get painted and are masterpieces sold for millions. others sold and used as ornaments and 'utensils' (think chairs, lights, tables, ashtrays, etc). talking about a 'masterpiece' that was murdered: "It cost that much precisely because it was not a girl. It was a painting, Lothar. A masterpiece. Do you still not get it? We are what other people pay us to be. You used to be a polic a provacative near future mystery. humans as canvases for art that have to be 'stretched' and 'primed'. the better ones get painted and are masterpieces sold for millions. others sold and used as ornaments and 'utensils' (think chairs, lights, tables, ashtrays, etc). talking about a 'masterpiece' that was murdered: "It cost that much precisely because it was not a girl. It was a painting, Lothar. A masterpiece. Do you still not get it? We are what other people pay us to be. You used to be a policeman, and that's what you were paid to be; now they pay you to work as an employee for a private company, and that's what you are. This was once a girl. Then someone paid to turn her into a painting. Paintings are paintings, and people can destroy them with portable canvas cutters just as you might destroy documents in your shredding machine, without worrying about it. To put it simply, they are not people. Not for the person who did this to her, and not for us."

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kat

    I cannot help but urge people with a curious mind to read this book. In fact, I urge everyone to read it. I'm not sure everyone will enjoy it, but I think it'll take place in the hearts of some as it did myself. The heavy descriptions so many people refer to are actually very beautiful - if you enjoy really drinking in the surroundings, understanding your place in the novel. At times it's grotesque, but at the same time it's amazingly delicate. I'll admit, at the end of the novel I was... disappo I cannot help but urge people with a curious mind to read this book. In fact, I urge everyone to read it. I'm not sure everyone will enjoy it, but I think it'll take place in the hearts of some as it did myself. The heavy descriptions so many people refer to are actually very beautiful - if you enjoy really drinking in the surroundings, understanding your place in the novel. At times it's grotesque, but at the same time it's amazingly delicate. I'll admit, at the end of the novel I was... disappointed? Without spoilers, I cannot reveal why, but those who have read it may understand that I was entirely against what happened - I felt outraged, because ... well, I believed in the point of the artist, I think. That's how good it is, it encouraged me to believe in their viewpoint and support it. I just honestly feel if nothing else, this should be a book read for intrigue. Because it leaves you hungry in a good way, and yet also full in a good way.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Simon Hollway

    Somoza performs a highwire act by flawlessly sustaining the central conceit of this unique thriller. A few pressure leaks emerge halfway through but, whether through chance or design, the faulty metaphors apply perfectly to other creative formats: the sub-text is less about the art world and far more a damning allegory of the fashion and film industries, also snatching up in a cruel embrace, reality and talent TV shows. The artist/'canvas' dynamic Somoza obsessively explores is, again perhaps ac Somoza performs a highwire act by flawlessly sustaining the central conceit of this unique thriller. A few pressure leaks emerge halfway through but, whether through chance or design, the faulty metaphors apply perfectly to other creative formats: the sub-text is less about the art world and far more a damning allegory of the fashion and film industries, also snatching up in a cruel embrace, reality and talent TV shows. The artist/'canvas' dynamic Somoza obsessively explores is, again perhaps accidentally, the most illuminating and accurate study of the twisted 'behind the scenes' relationship between a film producer and a big female star I have yet encountered. Beautifully written and rolling along at a thrilling pace, the metaphor works on so many different levels, pertinent to so many 'modern day' aesthetic and technological concerns and to issues that have emerged long after the novel was published. It really is a bit of a classic.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Magnolia Lotus

    This is a great read -- clever, suspenseful (but not in a distracting way) and extremely provocative. It concerns a new form of art in which young women (and a few men) allow themselves to be used as "canvases" (that's what they're called) to create living works of art. The idea is fleshed out in tremendous detail, even as the story -- a conventional policier -- plays out. The murders are perplexing exactly because it isn't clear whether or not they too are a form of Art. Meanwhile, for the youn This is a great read -- clever, suspenseful (but not in a distracting way) and extremely provocative. It concerns a new form of art in which young women (and a few men) allow themselves to be used as "canvases" (that's what they're called) to create living works of art. The idea is fleshed out in tremendous detail, even as the story -- a conventional policier -- plays out. The murders are perplexing exactly because it isn't clear whether or not they too are a form of Art. Meanwhile, for the young models who undergo an extremely rigorous training in order to be "primed" as canvases for celebrity artists, the growing dangers associated with their profession, adds to its allure.

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