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by Jane Adams
Allison and Busby, August 2005
288 pages
ISBN: 0749082704

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

"Stockbrokers and investment bankers are workaholics; artists are obsessed." So declared a character wielding a paintbrush in a New Yorker cartoon of the mid-1990s, and London artist Robert Carr, the painter in Jane Adams' latest mystery, A KISS GOODBYE, appears a case in point.

Obsessed with work, and hardly able to function away from the easel, Carr is also obsessed with a woman named Anna Freeman. Anna is the subject of most of Carr's work, but she disappeared years ago and nobody knows where she is. That is, until Carr's unscrupulous agent Simon Roper decides that a live television confrontation between artist and muse might be just the thing to boost Carr's already considerable fame. All goes well, but the night after the taping, Carr and his rediscovered make a date, and she ends up dead.

If you think that this story is a cliche, and you know who did it, you're wrong. I thought I did (possibly because James VI had a favourite named Robert Carr who died under house arrest for murder as a result of an arguably obsessive love) but was dead wrong. Adams plays on reader expectations to build up a familiar scenario, then undermines it with a series of remarkably creative twists. And yet, A KISS GOODBYE is not merely a suspense novel. It is definitely a character-based story: every new discovery adds layers to the characters' personas.

Through Carr's experience, Adams also explores issues of process, influence, and identity that concern every writer, including what happens when art meets modern business and media. The dry, stuffy, noirish DI Vic Marris's perspective of Carr, which reaches contempt without quite getting to philistinism, provides a good counterbalance, though Marris never quite comes alive in the way that Carr does. It is telling that Marris isn't mentioned in the dust jacket blurb.

In short, A KISS GOODBYE is beautifully written and deeply suspenseful, but pushes the envelope far beyond those reasons to read it.

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, September 2005

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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