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The Black Painting

by Neil Olson
Hanover Square Press, January 2018, $24.99

Tolstoy famously said that “all happy families are alike, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” The uniquely dysfunctional family in The Black Painting could give anyone’s a run for the money. Family money and long-held family secrets are at the heart of this gripping whodunit.

The four Morse cousins—sexy Audrey, dapper Kenny, fragile James, and the youngest, Teresa, a graduate student in art history, have been summoned to meet their art-collector grandfather at his seaside mansion in Connecticut. They haven’t been there since a priceless Goya self-portrait, said to be cursed, was stolen 15 years before. But when Teresa and Audrey arrive at the estate, they find the old man dead, with an expression of horror, facing the spot where the painting once hung.

As the family gathers for the funeral, the suspicions and accusations that split them asunder after the painting’s sudden disappearance are revived. The manipulative old man’s will requires each of the cousins to meet specific, harsh conditions before they can inherit their share of his legacy. As the family members’ awful secrets are gradually revealed, they spin further out of control, leading to explosive, sometimes violent confrontations. Teresa begins to understand that she must find out what really happened all those years ago in order to fully understand her family—and herself.

The Black Painting portrays a vivid setting, memorable characters, and complex psychological dynamics. The authentic dialogue, original plot, and brisk writing make it a fast-paced, fun read that’s hard to put down.

Jean Gazis

Family money and long-held family secrets are at the heart of this gripping whodunit.

Teri Duerr
January 2018
Hanover Square Press