Book Review – ‘Still Lives’ by Maria Hummel ⭐⭐⭐

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Thank you to NetGalley, Quercus and Maria Hummel for the chance to review this book.

It’s opening night for renowned artist Kim Lord and her new ‘Still Lives’ exhibit at Rocque, a floundering private museum. The startling show is made up of a series of eleven self-portraits depicting Kim as the female victims of some of America’s most infamous murders, such as Nicole Brown Simpson and Kitty Genovese. The twelfth painting is a still life that is an homage to all other female murder victims. 

Maggie Ritchie, copy editor for the museum didn’t want to work that night. Her ex boyfriend, Greg Shaw Ferguson, left her for Kim just months before, but she is roped in last minute to accompany a New York journalist who has been sent to write a front page article on the event.  As the rich and famous of L.A eagerly await Kim’s arrival at the Gala opening her boyfriend arrives . But the hours pass with no sign of Kim and she is no longer answering messages…

When Greg is arrested on suspicion of murder a few days later people begin to question if life is intimidating art.  Could she have met the same fate as her subjects?  Are there clues in the still life painting that might lead to the whereabouts of the missing artist?  Refusing to believe her ex is guilty, Maggie embarks on her own investigation to try and solve the mystery and puts herself in danger as she gets closer to the truth.

I had high hopes for this book. I loved that it came with a recommendation from Reese Witherspoon’s book club and couldn’t wait to start reading.  I found the story immediately interested me despite the fact that I know nothing about art or the art world.  I liked Maggie and could relate to the way she was consumed by the heartbreak and betrayal of Greg leaving her for Kim. I did find the way she kept springing between the present and an incident from six years ago, when her source was killed, very hard to follow.  While this did end up explaining how she met Greg and why she abandoned journalism,  I felt that it offered little to the story as a whole and just made it feel like it would randomly go back to that time and made the flow of the book feel patchy.  I also felt like the book would often lull for long periods where I struggled to hold my interest.  Then, just as I was about to stop reading it would grip me again and I’d keep going, only to be soon faced with the same issue.

I liked the fact that I would have never guessed the perpetrator but unfortunately after such a long book that I found an effort to read it was an anti climax and I didn’t really care who’d done it by that point.  The build up had been so confusing and there didn’t seem to be any tension when all of a sudden it was over.  I think part of the problem with this story is it was too long and if it had been stripped back a little there could have been more excitement instead of feeling like plots were dragged out too far.

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