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Take No More (The murder mystery thriller): (US Edition): James Blake #1 (James Blake thriller series) (Volume 1) Paperback – June 23, 2014
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
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Julia Blake is a conservator, working with classic art. Her expertise includes imaging beneath the surface of paintings to discover what lies beneath. She is sure that a number of those valuable paintings described as 'missing, believed lost or destroyed' have in fact been overpainted as a means of hiding them when the moral edicts of the past deemed them unsuitable. She has tracked down a collection of pictures in Florence that looks promising and has gone there to try to discover a hidden masterpiece and make her reputation.
Take No More begins when James Blake, Julia's husband, returns to their home in London to find that she has been shot and killed. What had brought her back to London unannounced? Why has someone killed her?
Blake determines to find her killers. He has little to go on - just her last message to him sent from her mobile phone: 'help me' with an attachment showing Michelangelo's painting 'Leda and the Swan'. There is no help from the police as he is impeded by the unsympathetic Inspector Hendricks who suspects him of the murder.
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The characters were not written in a way to make the reader particularly care. Part of that was perhaps a result of the use of time-jumping--for example, it sounded like Jim and Julia, a married couple, had not even spoken to each other in the time she had been in Florence, so when it was finally mentioned much, much later in the book in Julia's thoughts that she missed her husband, that ship had long since sailed and I really didn't believe they had much of a relationship at all. What person finds out that they had a sibling they had never met--even beyond that, an identical twin!!- and yet never calls their spouse to tell them? I didn't believe that they were a true couple, much less the happily married couple we were supposed to believe they were.
Time-jumping, or in this case backing up to give back story, to tell the reader what had previously transpired, and then to return to the present, can be a useful tool. Here it was okay, but it added to the feeling of disconnectedness from the characters and lack of involvement in the story. Combined with the one-tone reading, it became something to slog through and endure, not the entertainment I was seeking. At this point I don't think I would read another book by this author.
The book has great suspense and mystery along with gritty action. I didn't come across any language that would offend even the mildest reader. This book also ends on a pretty positive point once all is said and done. A great read!
The plot works around stolen art works and the possibility of many being hidden under layers of other works – either by the original artists or by people hoping to hide them. Collectors would pay millions for well known ones but of course if they can get away with murdering instead, that is faster and cheaper.
The story starts dramatically with James coming home after a day’s work to find Julia, an art restorer, dying inside the front door. Horrified, he calls the police and of course finds himself the chief suspect. Except for a copy of Julia’s downloaded files, he had no clue as to what she had done or with whom she’d associated in order to be murdered.
His brother, Miles, an investigative journalist and his partner Sergio, have unwittingly poked a crocodile with a stick – Alfieri and Alessa’s corrupt business dealings may well get them all killed.
The main character of James Blake, a likable man, is straightforward. However, we do not know many of his innermost thoughts which do not concern the job in hand, that of solving the mystery into which he has been plunged by the death of his wife. Obtaining information, keeping alive and in the meantime, revenge, are his only goals - and fair enough too!
As in all good traditional thrillers, there are myriad twist and turns, some of them delightful, others heartbreaking. The dialogue is natural and flowing, the plot well laid out and easy to follow. Some authors – in my opinion – make their plot so intricate that the average reader, especially me, is lost in a maze of over-cleverness. The pacing is fast but slows to allow the reader to catch her breath and then soldier on. One of the surprises in this novel, is that the author has actually managed to make me sorry for one of the murderers. That is a feat worth mentioning!
When the protagonist, James Blake, finds his wife murdered, he starts piecing together her work for a dangerous Italian family. For him, this is both an intellectual and an emotional challenge. As an art conservator, she was hoping to find a lost paintings, `Leda and the Swan' which may have been painted over to save it from destruction.
Carefully researched, the story is anchored in real facts in art history (Michaelangelo's Leda and the Swan is missing.) From these details, which grant authenticity to the writing, the author has cast a wide web of imagination. In composing this story, Seb Kirby adds to the magic of the wonderful words and stories he discovered in the treasure trove of books in his grandfather's mobile lending library.