Review of The Art of Violence by SJ Rozan

Some things to think about while also solving a mystery…

SJ Rozan tackles two difficult topics in her most recent Lydia Chin/Bill Smith entry, The Art of Violence.  The first, as might be guessed from the book’s title, is the nature of art – or maybe the nature of Art, **with** the capital letter.  And the second is mental disability/illness.   Rozan treats both subjects with a deft hand, while also delivering an absorbing mystery.   I thoroughly enjoyed this book. 

The plot revolves around one of Bill Smith’s prior clients, Sam Tabor, who has a difficult time dealing with the “real” world.   As Smith says, Sam has had “a raft of different diagnoses – OCD, AD/HD, Asperger’s”, and has problems with alcohol blackouts as well.   Sam has spent time in prison, having killed a girl while blacked out under the influence of drugs that someone gave him without his knowledge.   At that time, Sam chose to plead guilty and go to prison rather than be committed to a mental institution.     

Now, however, Sam is out on parole, thanks to the efforts of some art world heavy-hitters who are fascinated with his dark, violent paintings.  Or, if not fascinated, at least they think can market him and sell his paintings.   But women’s bodies seem to be piling up around Sam, and he wants to hire Bill to prove that he is the killer and should be back in prison.   Whew!   That’s the background, and out of this, Rozan weaves a compelling tale.  I couldn’t put it down, and ended up reading it in only two sittings.  

I don’t give five stars to many books, maybe one in thirty or forty that I read, but The Art of Violence was worth every star.  For full disclosure, this series was one of my favorites in the 1990s and 2000s, and I’ve been quite happy that Rozan returned to these characters, after a long hiatus, in the late 2010s.   And I am thankful to Pegasus Books/Edelweiss, who provided me with an advance reading copy to review.

Publisher: Pegasus Books

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