Shooting Gallery is written by two people, in this case, two sisters with varying backgrounds: one is a historian, the other an artist. Their pseudonym is Hailey Lind. This is the sisters’ second book (the first was Feint of Art), and it’s very good. As a writer, I find the prospect of co-writing a mystery novel both daunting and intriguing. A nonfiction book, yes, perhaps doing alternate chapters, but how do two people write a novel? Does one write, and one edit? However it’s done, these talented sisters do it well. Catchy title -- the novel is not about an actual shooting gallery, but about an art gallery where a few shootings and hangings occur.
This mystery, set in San Francisco’s downtown district and centering on the art scene, is tightly plotted, complex and not clichéd. Annie Kincaid, our 30-something amateur sleuth, is an art restorer and painter, granddaughter of a famous art forgerer. At an art opening, Annie finds a man hanging from a tree; a Chagall painting is stolen from a gallery; some of her friends are implicated. An old friend of her grandfather’s, a famous sculptor, is up to some nasty business and becomes elusive and rude. There’s not too much romance, so the novel doesn’t cross genres as do several contemporary mysteries. I sometimes got confused by the characters – there may be a few too many– but overall, the pace is quick, the background research solid, the characters multi-faceted and mostly likeable - even the art thieves and forgerers.
As I love art and museums, I enjoyed reading about the various real and fake art pieces, about the Stendhal syndrome, “a psychosomatic illness that causes rapid heartbeat, dizziness, confusion and even hallucinations when an individual is exposed to art” (from Wikipedia – not all dictionaries include this term ), which I had never heard of, and about the dedication people in the art world possess, despite fairly modest wages. This is what I like about good mysteries: I learn about worlds other than my own, about psychological and geographical realms I have rarely visited.