When New York art dealer Elizabeth Martel’s mother falls ill, she returns to her hometown in the Midwest. After her mother’s death she is seriously short of funds, and a friend suggests she take a job as art adviser to billionaire grain merchant, Preston Greylander.
When Greylander is killed in a mysterious murder-suicide, Martel is left in possession of a Rembrandt that needs restoration. She takes the painting to Amsterdam where she deposits it with the prestigious firm of Van der Saar Fine Arts.
The Van der Saar family has been in the art business since the seventeenth century and the current generation is represented by two brothers: Hendrik, suave and charismatic, is the perfect front man, while the deceptively low key Willem is a master of restoration. Hendrik and Martel enthusiastically resume an old love affair, and she discovers that the brothers’ personal lives are in chaos, and the family is haunted by guilt and swathed in deception.
As doubts arise about the authenticity of the Rembrandt, other actors arrive in Amsterdam determined to recover the picture.
“Dirty Pictures” is narrated by a woman with a brash, irreverent point of view. Martel’s voice is caustic, satirical, and darkly humorous. It gets into the readers head and stays there.
Patricia Ketola borrows freely from the genres of the crime novel, the family saga and the love story and combines them into a unique vision of life in a world heading for disaster. This richly textured novel celebrates the profound, the beautiful, and the good, and there is a lot of deep knowledge backing up Martel’s often outrageous statements.
“From Orson Welles’ “F Is for Fake” to Alan Rudolph’s “The Moderns”, I’ve always adored works of fiction centered on the concept of art forgery. I’m also a goner for strong narrative voice. Patricia Ketola’s clever and sexy debut novel is an audacious genre mash-up, elevated and enlivened by the salty, up-from-the-heels voice of narrator Elizabeth Martel, a sort of lusty spin on Patricia Highsmith’s magnetic sociopath Tom Ripley. “Dirty Pictures” heralds the arrival of a clever, gutsy new voice that fearlessly swings for the fences. —Craig McDonald, Edgar-Anthony Award Finalist
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