Publisher: Zaffre (Trade Paperback – 4 February 2021)
Series: Standalone/Book One
Length: 422 pages
My Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
2021 is definitely proving to be a great year for debut novels and one of the most intriguing examples of this is the fantastic murder mystery, The Art of Death by David Fennell.
Death is an art, and he is the master . . .
Three glass cabinets appear in London’s Trafalgar Square containing a gruesome art installation: the floating corpses of three homeless men. Shock turns to horror when it becomes clear that the bodies are real.
The cabinets are traced to @nonymous – an underground artist shrouded in mystery who makes a chilling promise: MORE WILL FOLLOW.
Eighteen years ago, Detective Inspector Grace Archer escaped a notorious serial killer. Now, she and her caustic DS, Harry Quinn, must hunt down another.
As more bodies appear at London landmarks and murders are livestreamed on social media, their search for @nonymous becomes a desperate race against time. But what Archer doesn’t know is that the killer is watching their every move – and he has his sights firmly set on her . . .
He is creating a masterpiece. And she will be the star of his show.
This first book from Fennell ended up being quite an enjoyable and intriguing read as this new author has come up with a compelling and dark murder mystery with some great surprises to it. I was lucky enough to receive a copy of this book a few weeks ago and became quite intrigued by the plot synopsis and the extremely cool cover art by Nick Stearn. I had a fun time getting through it, thanks to the captivating group of characters and clever mystery it contained, and this ended up being a fantastic novel to check out.
At the centre of this fantastic debut novel is a rather good mystery that revolves around a callous and inventively deranged serial killer who kidnaps and kills people in order to feature them in his art show. The Art of Death’s story follows this case from the discovery of the first three bodies, contained in a gruesome art display in Trafalgar Square, to its epic conclusion after the police engage in a lengthy investigation. This proved to be a complex and exciting investigation, as the police characters are constantly one step behind the brilliant and sadistic killer as he works to finish off his masterpiece. This results in a thrilling storyline as the police are forced to rush around and try to save the potential victims once the killer starts broadcasting their upcoming deaths online. Fennell makes excellent use of multiple character perspectives to show off the various sides of this case, whether it be the police investigation or the killer’s sick plans as they kidnap several people from around London with the help of social media. Fennell also adds an extra layer to the story when the killer starts to deliberately target and mess with the protagonist of the story in an attempt to draw them into his web. All of this leads to a fantastic and intense conclusion, and I loved some of the twists that Fennell introduced into the story, including some misleading suspects and compelling circumstances. I had an awesome time getting to the bottom of this dark and disturbing case and I thought that this was a great first mystery from this new author.
The best parts of this great novel were some of the distinctive and damaged characters featured throughout. The most notable are probably the protagonist, Detective Inspector Grace Archer and the antagonist, the serial killer/artist known as @nonymous. I thought that the character of Archer was an impressive cop protagonist, a no-nonsense, recently promoted female DI who takes the lead in the case over less capable colleagues. Archer proves to be a great central character of this book, and I enjoyed seeing her attempt to balance this trying case with her own complex personal life and the distain of several of her colleagues who she has previously alienated with a police corruption case. Fennell also works in a compelling angle which reveals that Archer was herself a survivor of a serial killer when she was younger, something which still haunts her to this day. This proved to be an intriguing facet of Archer’s character and one that impacts her role in the main case, although I think that it could have been worked into the main story a little better.
I also very much enjoyed the main antagonist, @nonymous, and Fennell did a fantastic job coming up with a vile and irredeemable killer. @nonymous is essentially an evil, murderous Banksy who stalks his prey through social media and live-streams his killings as a form of art. I found myself really disliking this character due to his ego, his belief in his artistic “genius” and the way he ruthlessly preys on people with low esteem, especially as you see several terrible sequences from his point of view. However, this worked well in the context of the book, as the reader cannot wait to see him fail, and it really amps up the anticipation in the story. I also appreciated the way in which the killer becomes obsessed with the protagonist and it adds a great additional edge to their story. I was able to predict who the killer was early in the novel, despite a couple of clever attempts from Fennell to throw the reader off the trail. Still, the author sets the reveal up really well and final confrontation between @nonymous and the protagonists is thrilling and suspenseful. Overall, this was an amazing use of characters, and I appreciate the complex protagonist and killer that the author created.
The Art of Death is an awesome debut murder mystery from new author David Fennell which I had a fantastic time reading. Thanks to this book’s compelling mystery and clever characters readers will quickly become engrossed in the fantastic story and will have fun seeing how the case comes to an end. I look forward to seeing what Fennell comes up with next, especially if he reuses the intriguing protagonist introduced in his amazing debut.