The Portrait

Charles Atkins, Author Thomas Dunne Books $23.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-312-18652-4
What do you do if you suffer from manic depression with paranoid tendencies, have just been released from the bin and badly need to take your meds--but lithium interferes with your ability to paint and you're a N.Y.C. artist with an opening... tonight? This is just a hint of the urgency that fuels Atkins's slick, assured debut. If you're 35-year-old Chadwick Greene, in and out of hospitals for the last 18 years, you skip your meds, paint a portrait of the shrink who pissed you off, open your show to rousing success, sell everything in it--including the shrink portrait--only to discover that the psychiatrist has been murdered and that you're the prime suspect. When Chad's apartment is broken into, his artwork stolen and his dog shot, Chad's paranoia is provoked: it becomes clear that someone wants him dead or behind bars in order to drive up the price of his paintings. Does Chad's agent really care about him or does she have the most to gain--in 25% commissions--from his death? Does the female detective assigned to his case want to date him or fry him for murder? What about his distant parents, his justifiably angry ex-wife, his new lawyer, his first shrink, his colleagues, his students? Are they what they seem or are they conspiring against him? Chad's waking nightmare neatly balances surreal surfaces with paranoid reality as the novel whips towards its satisfying conclusion and the reader is reminded, yet again, that even paranoids have enemies. (June)
Reviewed on: 06/01/1998
Release date: 06/01/1998
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