O Sacred Head

Nicholas Kilmer, Author
Nicholas Kilmer, Author Henry Holt & Company $23 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8050-5033-2
Paperback - 212 pages - 978-1-890208-48-6
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A brutal snowstorm that effectively shuts down Boston provides the chilling setting for Kilmer's third mystery (after Man With a Squirrel, 1996) featuring art expert Fred Taylor. Fred is asked by the police to identify a painting of the head of Christ found at a grisly murder scene in an upscale apartment building: the decapitated body of a man is nailed to the mantel in a crucifixion pose, except that the painting has been placed where his missing head should be. Meanwhile, Fred's employer, art collector Clayton Reed, is approached by two dealers, each of whom wants to sell him the same collection of Old Master paintings, including a Velazquez and a Rembrandt. But neither dealer will let him see the paintings or tell him who owns them. Things start heating up when one of the dealers, a known felon, is found strangled in a sleazy hotel room. Despite the continuing snow that makes it almost impossible to get around, Fred manages to get photocopies of the Velazquez and Rembrandt paintings and determines that neither is authentic. Once he realizes that the painting of the head of Christ, a known ""miracle"" painting that weeps blood, is also almost certainly a forgery, he's sure that the paintings are all from the same collection and suspects that the two murders are connected. As well as creating a complex, literate mystery with an insider's view of the art world, Kilmer gives Fred a welcome shot of down-to-earth reality with his girlfriend, Molly, and her two well-drawn children. (Sept.)
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