This was something a little bit different for me. First off, it’s a mystery, which I’ve come to enjoy but haven’t read a great deal, and it features a homosexual leading character. Why is that important? It isn’t. Other than the fact that author Janice Law won the Lambda Award for best gay mystery for a previous Francis Bacon mystery.
What attracted me to this, other than the fact that I am looking to read more mysteries, is the fact that Francis Bacon is not only a true historical figure, but an artist. A mystery series with an artist of abstract paintings as the leading character? I’m in.
ALthough life with his partner, David, is tempestuous at best, life-threatening at worst, Francis can’t help but follow David to Tangier. In Tangier, Francis identifies a Picasso painting as a forgery and therein becomes involved in a conspiracy of forgeries, torture, murder, British and Russian spies, and always the concerns about David.
Janice Law’s writing is very intelligent. This book doesn’t have that usual mystery ‘voice’ — you know…that noir-ish narrative, hard-boiled, smart-mouthed detective. Instead we have an insightful look at a time and country, from the viewpoint of a creative spirit who gets involved despite himself, and even when the outcome is bleakest, looks for the intelligent ways to survive and not smash and bash his way out of trouble. He is not super-human or have any police/spy tricks up his sleeve or even the training. He’s just an artist, in love, trying to survive in a foreign country.
And while the writing is smart, the characters remain a little flat. A homosexual artist in Tangier? I expect a little flair. Some color. While I recognize that the time period would not necessarily have homosexuals being too overt or flamboyant, the man himself, his thoughts, should reflect his lifestyle. From his very abstract art (look him up) to his sexual preference, I expect something more than just the smile and nod at the occasional beach boy. It needn’t be stereotypical to add in more of the creative spirit of the artist.
Even ignoring the homosexuality aspect of the main character (and it’s easy to do as, other than his love for another man, which got him to Tangier, there isn’t much to identify him as gay) I expected his art and his artistic eye to play more of a factor than some forgeries. And with an exotic location, I thought the location might come a little more in to play as well.
I liked the book. I liked the respect author Law gives to the reader and the intelligence with which this was written, and I very much like the idea of our lead character being a noted abstract artist. I hope I’ll get a little more glimpse of the mind that creates the abstract art in future (and perhaps the previous?) books.
Looking for a good book? Moon Over Tangier, a Francis Bacon mystery by Janice Law, is a smartly written mystery featuring an abstract artist, British and Russian spies, and forgery paintings, all leading to a gripping read.
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Moon Over Tangier
author: Janice Law
series: Francis Bacon #3
publisher: Mysteriouspress.com/Open Road
paperback, 208 pages