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Still Lives|Maria Hummel
Still Lives
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Overview

Twelve shocking paintings. Eleven famous murders. One missing artist . . . and one woman driven to find her--this Reese's Book Club x Hello Sunshine Selection is a "stunning achievement" (Los Angeles Times).

Kim Lord is an avant-garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition Still Lives is comprised of self-portraits depicting herself as famous, murdered women―the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others―and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women.

As the city's richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum's opening night, all the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution's flailing finances.

Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala.

Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls on the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie's ex. A rogue's gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord's disappearance, she'll come to suspect all of those closest to her.

Set against a culture that often fetishizes violence, Still Lives is a page-turning exodus into the art world's hall of mirrors, and one woman's journey into the belly of an industry flooded with money and secrets.

"It's a thrilling mystery that will leave you wondering which characters you can and can't trust . . . There's a twist at the end that still keeps us up at night, it's THAT good." --Reese Witherspoon (A Reese's Book Club x Hello Sunshine Selection)

 

  • ISBN-13: 9781619021112
  • ISBN-10: 1619021110
  • Publisher: Counterpoint LLC
  • Publish Date: June 2018
  • Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.14 pounds
  • Page Count: 288

A study in suspense

It’s hard to know where an artist’s persona ends and her art begins, and this has never been truer than in the case of the mysteriously disappeared Kim Lord, the central figure in Maria Hummel’s spellbinding new novel, Still Lives. It’s also somewhat true of Hummel herself: The award-winning poet (her collection House and Fire won the APR/Honickman Prize in 2013 for best first book) worked at the perpetually cash-strapped Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, and her novel’s protagonist, Maggie Richter, finds herself in a similar job at a similarly underfunded museum.

When Lord goes missing on the biggest night of her life—an A-list museum opening featuring her photographs, in which she portrays famous murder victims—speculation runs wild. Is it a publicity stunt? Or are more serious forces at foot? When Maggie’s ex-boyfriend (now Lord’s lover) falls under suspicion, Maggie’s journalistic instincts kick in, taking her places the cops can’t go and unwittingly putting her life in peril.

No doubt comparisons to Raymond Chandler’s best work will rain down upon Still Lives, dotted as it is with trenchant observations of LA and the human condition. Like Chandler, Hummel is capable of limning out a ripping yarn replete with high fashion, high finance and high society. These are the mean streets through which our heroine travels, though slightly removed from the glitter and the nastiness. And not unlike another master of the mystery, Erle Stanley Gardner, Hummel includes an intellectually satisfying Perry Mason moment that also provides an interesting twist.

It would be damning with faint praise to call Still Lives a contender for best beach read of the year—like calling Pablo Picasso a really good painter—but Still Lives is both that and so much more.

 

Thane Tierney lives in Inglewood, California, and is a member in good standing at several American and international museums.

This article was originally published in the June 2018 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.