Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Portrait of Death - An Extremely Violent Novel Not Recommended

Art came from death. That is what she always believed. She was obsessed with paintings, art sculptures, any form of art. Not the kind of art one would see in an art museum, art galleries, or art exhibits. To her, that was not art. She was not impressed by it and every single one of those famous painters and their work should be removed from society. Mona Pruitt was in the back room of her art studio reviewing a portrait she recently painted. The portrait was of a dead man she killed, sitting at his desk with his head resting on his arms. Blood was coming down his head. Mona took her eyes off the portrait and glanced at her student, Jonathon Wade, a young man who was staring at the knife in his hands that Mona gave him. He kept looking at it. Back and forth between it and Mona. His eyes filled with fear and confusion. Mona stood from her seat, grabbed the chair, brought it with her and sat directly across from Jonathon. She did not look happy. 
“What’s it going to be?” Mona asked.
“I changed my mind.” He said with strong doubt. “I can’t do it.” “I thought you were prepared to give me a new portrait? I thought you wanted to be the focus of that portrait? To prove where art really comes from.” 
“I do.” 
“Then take the knife and open your throat with it. Your portrait will be very important to many of us.” 
“I want to go.” 
“No. You assured me you shared my vision of art. You promised you would be my next portrait.” 
“I made a mistake.” 
“Do it!” 
“Please don’t make me.” 
“Cut your throat!” 
Jonathon started shaking, on the verge of crying and shouted, “Why are you doing this? Everything was fine before.”
“Jonathon,” Mona said strongly. Losing her patience. Letting her voice take on a more serious tone. “You have five seconds to take your own life or I will take it for you.” 
“Just let me go. I won’t tell anyone.” 
“One.” Jonathon started crying now and said, “Oh god.”
“Two.” Jonathon gripped the knife in his hands right above his lap with the blade sticking straight up. His shaking became uncontrollable as he prepared himself to take his own life. “Three! Don’t you want to be the star of my next portrait?” Mona shouted. Jonathon raised the knife closer to his face. Aiming at the side of his throat. 
“Four!” Jonathon had trouble moving the knife any closer to his face. To actually have what it took to drive a sharp blade into your own body. That thought was horrifying. To be the one responsible for inflicting pain on yourself. Making it a slow death. 
“Five!” Jonathon’s face got hot red and angry. The decision was now or never. Seconds away from a life-altering situation. Then, he turned the knife around and aimed it at Mona. He got up out of his seat screaming, aiming at her face. 
Mona shot up out of her seat, stopped his arm in mid-swing, grabbing it and forced him to drop the knife. He then stepped back in shock as Mona bent down to pick up the knife. Stared at him with a much smarter and cunning look. “I thought you were with me on this,” Mona said. “I guess I was wrong.” With no warning, Mona stabbed the knife into Jonathon’s throat and held it in there as blood came out of the new wound. Then she gripped it tighter and slit his throat. Slicing through his neck from left to right. Then she took the knife out and watched as he clutched at his throat, in an attempt to stop the bleeding and collapsed to the floor and died.

Note: I was given an ebook for my review; if I had not been asked for a review, I would not have finished the book. It is extreme in violent, graphic death scenes, far more than I've read before...and, in my opinion, totally gratuitous. While the author indicated he wanted something new, I have personally read quite a few books based upon serial killing on the basis of art. 

For instance, I remember one where, after the victim was dead, they were dressed in fairy tale costumes and the bodies were displayed in public places. At the time I thought this was original at least. This book, however, has no depth, nothing to make the killings artistic. They are merely killed, and then set in place to perhaps continue their job, such as a yoga instructor. But this was not consistent. Additionally, the lead villain had created a cult following of students who were doing the same, but some had little "vision" in presentation and, in fact, the whole thing became boring--it certainly is not thrilling or suspenseful...

On the other hand, Mona has some type of charisma that draws certain types of people to her and she certainly engenders loyalty--a sick kind of obsession that one assumes only means that each of the individuals have psychological problems...

In fact, every single major and minor character (outside of single scene individuals) are shown with some type of deficiency in personality. Yes, that includes, supposedly, the good guys. Whatever the author meant to show through this character development did not work at all for me...Other than to confirm that the entire book is not plausible, and, for the most part, not even slightly believable. If anything, it reads like a slasher story lacking in depth of story line.

But that is not totally true. Apparently this book is a debut for an earlier screen writer. It is very apparent that he has no experience in character development, setting the scenes, and, even, in basic writing. Especially at the beginning, sentences are repetitive, though said with different words. The writing style is consistent throughout the book, no matter that different characters are involved. One of the most noticeable of errors is the introduction of a new character, together with an immediate description of what the individual is wearing... The main problem is that the reader is in the midst of a somewhat taut, heavy matter and all of the sudden is jarred by detailed description of, duh, who cares? The reader has been totally pulled away from the story for no apparent reason and certainly reveals the writer's lack of experience...

Again, there is an opposite side, because the continuity of the book moving from the beginning to the end is quite good. While the revelation of what is going on becomes so convoluted and complicated that it got to a point where the whole story was falling apart when one person after another is pulled in and then ignored for the rest of the book.

While the two main characters, one an FBI agent and the other a cop who recently resigned, are fairly well drawn, there is no ability to consider them the traditional good cop. They have been drawn to appear unable to handle their emotions and quite often become violent as well... 

The cop character had been physically involved with Mona, and is now involved with the sister, the latter being place in a ridiculous situation that boggles the imagination, truthfully.

While some of the ending made sense, again too many characters were added to create a satisfactory ending...and, in fact, it is not the ending, but a lead-in to the sequel. It was, though, a satisfactory break off point.

Bottom line for me, the book had potential, but it was extremely overplayed in the amount of violence, especially since it was the same acts over and over. It needs a major content editing to eliminate the superfluous words that are repetitive or do not move the story forward.  But the most offensive was the number of characters, the outlandish, bizarre introduction of scenarios that just could not be believed and the failure to effectively differentiate the good characters from the bad characters...Hopefully, in the real world, we still have both, even if the lines blur from time to time.

Sorry, I cannot recommend this book.


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