cover image Portrait of a Murder

Portrait of a Murder

Michael Jecks. Severn, $31.99 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4483-1037-1

This promising series launch from Jecks (the Bloody Mary Tudor series) introduces a particularly unlikely amateur gumshoe: British portrait painter Nick Morris. After an opening tease in which Morris is stunned to find a man with his head blown off by a shotgun blast, flashbacks explain how Morris came to know the victim, Jason Robart, an affluent hotel owner. The artist is invited to attend Robart’s birthday party by attorney Peter Thorogood, ostensibly to discuss painting Robart’s portrait as a present from his wife, but learns later that the real reason for his presence is to give his impressions of his subject’s integrity. Thorogood is considering partnering with Robart on a property deal in Colombia, but worries about Robart’s possible involvement in shady business dealings, including money laundering. Those concerns prove to be justified, especially after Morris googles Robart and finds that the man, surprisingly, has no online presence. After Robart apparently kills himself while Morris is on his property to complete the portrait, the artist decides to investigate. The light tone is perfectly matched to the gripping plot. This contemporary mystery, Jecks’s first non-historical, showcases his wide range. Agent: Joanna Swainson, Hardman & Swainson (U.K.). (Apr.)