Title: An Affinity for Murder
Author: Anne White
Publisher: Oak Tree Press (2001)
When Freelance writer Ellen Davies goes to interview an expert in Georgia O’Keeffe’s art for an article she’s writing she finds, instead, a smouldering pile of old clothes piled up in the middle of the floor. As if that wasn’t bad enough underneath the clothes is the charred body of a man. The house at which all of this takes place belongs to Ellen’s friend Diane, who later asks Ellen to look after an ugly painting so that her ex-husband doesn’t get hold of it. Are there missing works of one of America’s greatest artists to be found in Lake George, New York or is there a sinister art fraud racket going on?
It’s a fairly standard amateur sleuth plot although Ellen is less intent on discovering whodunnit than writing her article about O’Keeffe. It’s the teenage daughter of a friend that really wants to play detective and Ellen goes along for the ride for a good part of the book. Perhaps I wasn’t paying as much attention as I normally would due to seasonal silliness but on multiple occasions I thought the author made reference to things that hadn’t happened in the book but readers were supposed to know about. It’s the first book in a series but the many vague references to past events were disconcerting and made it seem like the second or third book in a string. Even Ellen’s love interest treats her the same way the hapless partners of more seasoned amateur sleuths do; making multiple comments about how she should stop getting involved in these kinds of events. Why would he do that if it’s the first time Ellen has done something like this? However the plot was resolved satisfactorily even if there were loose ends that didn’t make a lot of sense.
Where the book fell down for me was that the characters who were all a bit too stereotypical and not terribly engaging. Ellen as a protagonist is a bit dull and I felt the author was trying too hard to make her seem feisty and independent and the rest of the cast were not people I’d want to spend much time with. Kevin, Ellen’s boyfriend, was downright annoying and Diane, the friend who got Ellen muddled up with the mystery in the first place wasn’t much better with her continual whining about her ex-husband and never-explained clandestine affair with a bar tender. Aside from small glimmers of personality from the teenage Josie there wasn’t a hint of a sense of humour in the entire book which is something I look for in my cosy reading.
I picked the book because I’m a fan of O’Keeffe’s paintings and thought a mystery about her work would be a nice way to pass some lazy summer reading time but didn’t really get what I was looking for. However the book’s won several awards and there are now four books in this series so clearly these characters appeal to others.
My rating 2.5/5