Gordon Cotler: Artist’s Proof

If this book interests you at all, snap up one of the few used copies we have, as it’s out of print. I’m a sucker for “art” mysteries, and so I picked up this book by an apparent past Edgar winner who is now totally out of print. This novel features one of the more unusual characters I’ve encountered in a mystery – Sid Shale is a retired NYPD homicide lieutenant who has taken his twenty year pension to pursue life as a painter. His ex-wife handily owns an art gallery that handles his work, but still, sales are on the slow side for Sid. The Long Island Beach community he lives in is a small one, and when one of Sid’s friends runs in to tell him there’s been a murder “up the beach” – Sid goes up the beach himself to see if he can’t be of help to the green Chief of Police whose main function heretofore has been investigating bicycle thefts.

Sid is allowed into the crime scene and discovers to his dismay that the victim is one of his former models, a beautiful sixteen year old named Cassie Brennan. Through various machinations of the plot Sid becomes one of the main suspects – and though we as readers are never seriously worried about what might happen to Sid – it gives him a reason to investigate the crime further. This is a well put together mystery with fair clues that, while it doesn’t have the sparkle of some enduring series, still has a good main character, story, and art backdrop for the aficionado (and I know you’re out there). I’ve included a list of some of my favorite “Art” mysteries, should Artist’s Proof be unavailable.

  • Artists in Crime, Ngaio Marsh
  • The Rembrandt Panel, Oliver Banks and The Caravaggio Obsession by Banks are two of the most authentic art world mysteries I’ve read. Reading these two books will actually give you an insight into Rembrandt and Caravaggio.
  • Picture Postcard, Frederick Huebner
  • A Grave Talent, Laurie R. King
  • Any art novel by Iain Pears (they all have an artist’s name in the title). These novels are set in Italy and feature the inner workings of an art theft squad. Nicely written with a light touch and a healthy dose of atmosphere.