Book review: ‘The Black Painting’
“The Black Painting”
Hanover Square, 2018
The wealthy, reclusive patriarch of the Morse family summons his estranged children and grandchildren to his mansion in rural Connecticut, but the first to arrive find him dead in his study. His face, turned toward where a valuable painting once hung, is contorted in horror.
The painting, which went missing 15 years earlier, was one of the hideous masterpieces painted by Goya during a period of despair at the end of his life. The old man, apparently believing the legend that the work could drive people mad, had rarely let anyone even look at it.
Was the old man murdered? Which of his family members and household staff most wanted him dead? Does his death have something to do with the stolen painting? Who stole it all those years ago? And could there be any truth to the legend?
So begins Neil Olson’s second novel, “The Black Painting,” a complex tale that is at once a riveting psychological thriller, a serious dissection of a dysfunctional family and an exploration of the power of art to change lives.
Olson cleverly shifts the point of view among his well-drawn cast of characters, most of whom can’t be relied on to tell readers the truth. Particularly intriguing are the four grown grandchildren trapped by their family’s history and a dogged private detective who was hired to track down the painting years ago and was never able to let the case go.
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