Artists, writers, musicians, dancers, and actors come to the Banff Centre for the Arts to work on their craft in the peaceful mountain setting. But when Alan Montrose is found dead, that peacefulness is shattered. Some even go so far as to suspect foul play was involved with the playwright’s death, though most accept the fatality as merely an accident. Then, a second death occurs. Erika Dekter burns to death inside the boat studio. And this time, it is clear that it was no accident. Are the two deaths connected? If so, who wanted these two artists killed? These are the questions that aspiring painter Laura Janeway grapples with as she launches her own investigation of the crimes. One thing is certain: to find out who is responsible for the deaths, Janeway must be suspicious of everyone in the closely knit artists’ colony. And with grudges, professional jealousies, and affairs hanging in the air, there are more than enough suspects.
John Ballem is a lawyer and author who travels extensively throughout the world. He has written several short stories and a volume of poetry. Murder as a Fine Art is his eleventh novel.
I certainly enjoyed reading this murder mystery by John Ballem... which is centered in an artistic environment. It's very comprehensive and concise, follows a straight-ahead sequence of events and contains sufficiently in-depth and interesting characterizations to keep the story flowing smoothly and the reader in suspense.
Author John Ballem knows success. He's a Calgary-based lawyer listed in the 2002 edition of the "Leading 500 Lawyers in Canada" and a writer who has published 11 novels, several short stories and a collection of poetry. Set in Banff, Murder as a Fine Art is a thriller replete with stock characters and a plot as full of switchbacks as Sulphur Mountain.
A great thing about this book is the familiarity of its form. On page 12 I started asking "whodunit?" By page 47 I correctly guessed the culprit, and 20 pages later I was ready to take a stab at a motive.
The novel is equipped with the following: one corpse detailed in the first paragraph, one sexy and sleuthing painter-protagonist, and much overuse of the motif of "revelation." There is a forbidden love affair between a composer and pianist, both putting their intense emotions to use as fuel for their artistic endeavours...
Murder as a Fine Art is definitely a mainstream read. What's interesting about it is seeing a location so close to home through the eyes of stock characters as the mystery unfolds at the "campus in the clouds." Diane DeChief, FFWD Calgary's News & Entertainment Weekly
a clever little puzzle plot in the Agatha Christie mould.