Book Review - Still Lives by Maria Hummel
I selected Still Lives by Maria Hummel as my Book of the Month Club choice way back in May. It sat on my shelf for months and I kind of forgot about it for awhile. Then Reese Witherspoon chose it for her August Book Club and it prompted me to finally pick it up. Book of the Month and Reese Witherspoon's Book Club are two that I follow religiously for great book recommendations - so if they are both promoting the same book you know it is going to be GOOD!
Still Lives is an obvious choice for me, since it is about the art world. But it is also a murder mystery so the pages were turning and they were turning fast. The story centers around the Rocque Museum in Los Angeles. The museum is featuring a controversial artist, Kim Lord, and her latest exhibit drawing light to women who were murdered in gruesome ways (including the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson and other well-known cases.) The book touches on themes of what is art, what is good art, and the (often unethical) financial side of the art world. This reminded me a lot of the documentary The Price of Everything (click here to read more about this documentary and another book to read if you're interested in that sort of thing.)
I really enjoyed this book. It was a good balance between an insider view of the art world and a murder mystery. I enjoyed the rich content about running a museum, the ethical dilemmas faced by artists and collectors, the role of the museum in an artist's career, etc. But I also really enjoyed how the author revealed clues to the mystery along the way. I was never really sure who to trust, I questioned some of the protagonists decisions, and I was left guessing how this would work out in the end. My only complaint is that I couldn't get a good visual on the work of art that was revealed at the end of the book - the author did such a great job describing the works of Kim Lord that when she described this last piece (by a different artists, but I don't want to give too much away...) I couldn't imagine it in my head.
I wish I hadn't waited so long to read this one - my schedule just didn't allow it until my vacation to Palm Springs, California earlier this month. However, it turned out to be the perfect time to read it since the book takes place in LA and there was even a brief mention of Palm Springs in the book. This is the ideal vacation read - perfect for sitting by the pool and getting lost in a great story.