Cover Image: Art of Death

Art of Death

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Member Reviews

Really enjoyed this unusual police procedural, great characters and a gripping plot. Also really enjoyed the West Country setting, especially Lyme Regis and Charmouth, which I know well. I'm really hoping this a the first of a series, as this dynamic police duo are first class creations.
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The Mindful Detective. I just love this idea!

Kristal Havfruen has been unveiled, dead in a tank of formaldehyde at the re-launch of her career. Was this her final shocking farewell or was it murder? As the story goes on we find out more about Kristal, her shock art (think Damien Hurst), her family and her son, A Boy Named Art. Art was conceived on stage, born on stage (yes, really. Told you – shock art) and his whole life has been part of Kristal’s ‘Art’…

Detective in charge of the case is DI Shanti Joyce. She has been moved from Camden, London following the failure of a previous case. The details aren’t revealed in this particular book so I’m hopeful that The Mindful Detective becomes a proper series. It has been billed as the first in a series so fingers crossed.

Shanti is assisted by Vincent Caine, or The Veggie Cop as he is known around the station. Having been off work ‘sick’ for months, it is decided that this case will be his comeback. Again his ‘sickness’ isn’t really revealed – something else for the sequel. Caine is considered weird by normal standards but the author has made, in my eyes, Caine to be the perfect ‘good cop’. Practicing Buddhism he is able to get under the skin of suspects and get the best out of them, whether that’s a confession or a better understanding of their motives and involvement in crimes. I loved him.

My only small gripe with this novel was the fact that Shanti and Caine may end up as a couple. In my view that would damage the stories in the future, Art of Death is a wonderful story because they work so well together. Were they a couple is it likely that they would be able to work together?

I love a police procedural. The Mindful Detective has the potential to become a firm favourite.
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Kristal Havfreun is a world-renowned performance artist. Her past works involved conceiving her son and also giving birth to that son – a boy cursed with the name Art. Her latest work involves a simulacrum of her naked body floating in a tank of formaldehyde. But when it is unveiled, the sight of a bloody wound in the next reveals the truth – it is Kristal herself who lies dead.

DI Shanti Joyce, recently transferred from London to Yeovil, is trying to rebuild her life and her career. With her team shorthanded, she enlists the currently-on-leave Vincent Caine, the so-called Mindful Detective, a policeman whose philosophical – sorry, mindful outlook has put him at odds with his colleagues. Can the two extreme approaches of the two sleuths combine constructively or clash destructively?

As far as I am aware, this is the first mystery novel by Laurence Anholt – it’s certainly the first in the Mindful Detective series. I was drawn to it due to the compelling quotes from friends-of-the-blog Kate Ellis, Len Tyler and Frances Brody (clearly Lee Child and Peter James were taking a break from plugging every book in sight). It currently sits with 4.8/5 on Amazon, so things bode well, yes?

Well, yes – mostly.

It’s a good read. There are times when I had to question why either of the lead characters had ever made it onto the police force but this is a piece of crime fiction where you have to suspend reality a tad – for example, would such a high profile case really be given to an unpopular newcomer to run, with an understaffed team, other than to set up a book plot?

At the end of the day, this is an enjoyable read, although plot-wise, it suffers a bit from a lack of suspects which certainly helps direct the reader in the vague, if not the precise, direction of the murderer. The writing style makes it an easy read, and the plot keeps moving forward as the pages turn.

There’s a lot of potential in the series, especially as by the end of the tale, the extremes of the two leads seem to have been rounded down a little due to the events of the tale, although I did think one development was perhaps a little too soon, given I presume this is to be a series. But there’s plenty of stuff here that will bring me back to give the next book in the series a try.

Art Of Death is out now in paperback from Little, Brown. Many thanks for the review copy.
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A fairly formulaic crime novel.  The odd couple in this case is a Buddhist policeman and a new DI from London, trying to solve a mysterious art-world related murder. Nothing objectionable but I won't rush to find the next one.
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Thank you NetGalley and Little Brown Book Group for the ARC.
I really didn't know what to expect from this and am still a little confused, I stopped and started this as I couldn't decide whether I liked it or not. 
I found sometimes the humour was unnecessary and some of the book to be childish.  The character DI Shanti Joyce to me wasn't really right and I found her questionnable as a police officer. 
This is not a book I could recommend.
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Definitely not a story to read while feeling queasy!

So I’m having a pretty bad week I’ve broken my foot in three places and seem to have caught the latest vomiting but. Lovely. So it’s a pleasure to escape into a book, a book which totally transported me away from my terrible week and took me on a sinister, thrilling ride through Art of Death. It’s perfectly written and has a good dose of humour. I have great knowledge in art so this was totally my sort of thriller!

Loved it and can highly recommend.
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I think it is fair to say that a Buddhist police detective is pretty much a rarity in crime fiction but Laurence Anholt's DI Vincent Caine is one such police officer who we find at the beginning of the story on an extended sick leave, undergoing a long retreat, finding that normal police work serves to be a major block to living a life of serenity. It appears as if he is on the cusp of reconsidering his future on the force, living in a remote cabin that he has built himself on the Undercliff at Lyme Regis. DI Shanti Joyce is a recent transfer to Yeovil from Camden, London, after making a major hash of a case, now a single mother to her young son, Paul, after undergoing a tumultuous divorce. She is struggling to juggle her work and the demands of motherhood, relying on her mother for critical childcare. She is feeling the pressure of having to prove herself among her new colleagues and is desperate to demonstrate her professional competence after the debacle in London.

At a uber hip art gallery in Somerset, The Meat Hook, controversial fame hungry, narcissistic and notorious performance artist Kristal Havfruen is showcasing her latest art show after a considerable period with her career in the doldrums of obscurity. The scene is set on the opening night, with the local movers and shakers of the art world and the press salivating to see what her latest secretive major work of art is. When the exhibit is unveiled, no-one initially realises that the Kristal model, in the artist's lifelong signature white dress and red DMs, floating in a tank of formaldehyde is in fact the actual murdered body of the artist herself. In an art world where the shock factor is often everything and where death raises the artist's profile and profitability, Kristal is to realise a level of fame she failed to attain whilst alive. It is Shanti's first big case, the heat is on with the intense media scrutiny, but she is shorthanded, and takes the advice of DS Bennett, of persuading and co-opting the brilliant, if offbeat, veggie detective DI Caine on the investigation.

The two detectives have distinctly different approaches, approaches where there would appear to be very little middle ground. Shanti is hard nosed, logical, evidence led, with a rational style and she struggles to comprehend Caine's more other worldly perspectives. However, his people skills are second to none, and his methods have surprisingly unexpected results. The major focus of this debut crime series is the development of their relationship as they work their way through the small circle of family and friends that comprise the suspects in the case. Anholt provides a strong sense of location with the woods and coastline of the West country in a crime fiction tale that drew me in with its protagonists, they have a certain charm in the way they interact, whilst painting an authentic and richly detailed picture of the contemporary art world. Many thanks to Little, Brown for an ARC.
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Humour is an entirely subjective thing. I'm afraid that within a few pages of this book I knew I wasn't going to like it. I found the satire on the art world to be infantile and our DI Shanti Joyce does not strike me as a very credible member of the police (the way in which she spoke to the witnesses is questionable indeed).
I'm sure that there is a right reader for this book out there, but I wasn't it.
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Meet Vince Caine, Mindful Detective....
The first in a new series featuring Vince Caine, the Mindful Detective. When a case calls for some out of the box thinking and a fresh approach, the Mindful Detective springs to mind. A wholly entertaining and well written mystery with rounded characters and a great backdrop. Satisfying reading and a worthy start to a series.
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DI Shanti Joyce, recently of Camden in London, now based in the West Country, is called to investigate a dead body found floating in a tank of formaldehyde.  Shanti is a tough woman, a caring mother, and a determined cop.  Going through a messy divorce, Shanti made a major screw up on a case and as a result was relocated to the hinterland of the West Country.  She is now frantically trying to prove herself to herself, as well as the new team she leads. 
The murder of Kristal Havfruen is front page news, an over the top, over the hill performance artist, this was to be her comeback show with the finale being a replica of the artist in the tank.  Instead it was the artist in the tank!
Vincent Caine, the DI Shanti replaced has been on an extended medical leave.  A Buddhist, he is questioning how he can stay being a cop amidst the crime and evil that surrounds the job.  Shanti seeks out his assistance and he reluctantly joins the investigation.
The contrast between Vincent and Shanti is profound, but working together they find they complement each other.  Gradually through the investigation they develop a beneficial relationship.
A satisfying mystery with well drawn characters, I enjoyed this book very much.  It’s also given me a bit of an interest in exploring Buddhism.  I look forward to this developing into a series.
Thank you to Netgalley and Little Brown for an electronic copy.
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I would like to thank Netgalley and Little, Brown Book Group UK for a review copy of Art of Death, the first novel to feature West Country detectives DI Shanti Joyce and DI Vincent Caine.

When performance artist Kristal Havfruen is found dead in a tank of formaldehyde at her comeback exhibition recent transplant from London, DI Shanti Joyce, is assigned the case. She soon realises that the case might require some lateral thinking and enlists the aid of her predecessor, DI Vincent Caine who is on sick leave.

I thoroughly enjoyed Art of Death which is a very complete novel with an interesting plot and a lively tone. The plot is well done with Shanti and Caine uncovering motives and secrets in a small group of artists and family. I like the confined circle of suspects as it keeps the plot tight and gives more room for character development. It also gives the reader a good look at the victim, a nasty, narcissistic woman whom any of the suspects had reason to kill. I also liked the steady stream of reveals as Shanti bulldozes and Caine meanders through the case.

I must admit that I know very little about the art world, being more of the “I know what I like” school, and this novel is enough to reinforce all my prejudices. It takes a fairly large potshot at the pretentiousness and outrageousness for the sake of it performance art. I found it extremely funny and can imagine the fun the author had devising Kristal’s “happenings”.

The novel, however, is dominated by Shanti and Caine’s relationship. She is the tough, no nonsense cop who relies on facts, science and logic and keeps people at a distance, hence Caine rather than Vincent. Caine is a Buddhist with good people skills, hence Shanti, and a lateral way of thinking. Their relationship is chalk and cheese but it works. There is friction and frustration from Shanti over Caine’s serene approach but it is rarely ill tempered and is mostly highly amusing, especially the in-joke about the mugs.

The novel has a good sense of location, never a given in crime fiction, with the coast and surrounding woodland providing a wild atmosphere.

Art of Death is a good read that I have no hesitation in recommending. 4.5*
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