Londoner Jack Manton is somewhat at loose ends. He specializes in art, and is occasionally able to spot a gem hidden, so to speak, in plain sight – other experts not realizing they’re seeing a forgotten or unknown masterpiece. His recent luck earned him a cool 85,000 pounds, but that’s mostly spent, so he’s on the hunt for more. He gets help with research from his live-in girlfriend, Tamsin Greene, but she’s rather quickly coming to resent his unstable ways and general lack of seriousness.
And then he finds an auction in Perth, Australia. For sale are a paired set of paintings by a Russian artist, Mikhail Brodsky, who died in World War II and is already being ranked with the likes of other Russian artists like Wassily Kandinsky. Except neither the auction house nor anyone else, supposedly, knows these are works by Brodsky. Manton goes to Australia, secures the paintings for a ridiculously low price, and has them shipped home.
After he returns to London, he learns that the manager at the auction house has been killed, and the only thing taken was the records of who bought those two paintings. As it turns out, a Russian collector is also after works by Brodsky and other Russians, and employs a professional assassin to get what he wants. And he wants those paintings.
So does Manton. He knows there must be more. And so beings a narrative of travels to Russia, Paris, and Lyon, travels that leave a trail of bodies and general mayhem.
The Brodsky Affair: Murder is a Dying Art is one of six suspense thrillers written by author Ken Fry, and it’s a humdinger of a read. It’s about the corruption of post-Soviet Russia, the art market, and the passions that drive art collectors. Fry places the roots of the story in World War II and the Nazi German invasion of Russia, but this isn’t a Nazi-looting-of-art kind of story – the Nazis hated the kind of art produced by abstract and expressionist painters (Brodsky is a fiction, but others mentioned in the story like Kandinsky are not).
Manton is the hero of the story, but he’s a distinctly flawed one. He finds himself up against a ruthless assassin, who will do anything and kill anyone to get what his client wants. And the bodies keep piling up.
The Brodsky Affair is an intriguing, well-written story about art, and corruption, and murder.
Painting: Autumn Landscape with Boats by Wassily Kandinsky (1908).