What Meets the Eye
by Alex Kenna
January 9 - February 3, 2023 Virtual Book Tour
Kate Myles was a promising Los Angeles police detective, until an accident and opioid addiction blew up her family and destroyed her career. Struggling to rebuild her life, Kate decides to try her hand at private detective work—but she gets much more than she bargained for when she takes on the case of a celebrated painter found dead in a downtown loft.
When Margot Starling’s body was found, the cause of death was assumed to be suicide. Despite her beauty, talent, and fame, she struggled with a host of demons. But as Kate digs deeper, she learns that Margot had a growing list of powerful enemies—among them a shady art dealer who had been selling forged works by Margot. Kate soon uncovers a dirty trail that leads straight into the heart of the city’s deadly underworld.
Margot died for her art—and if Kate doesn’t tread lightly, she could be the next to get brushed out.
Praise for What Meets the Eye:
"[An] impressive debut . . . Sara Paretsky fans will be pleased."
"Alex Kenna is the real deal, a true talent. Her prose is stunningly eloquent and characterization masterful."
Crime Fiction Critic
"A righteous, painful debut. More, please."
"Dragging the world of high art down into the muck of Los Angeles' criminal underbelly, Alex Kenna has created an engaging mystery buoyed by the heart of its heroine, Kate Myles. Trying to win against stacked decks in her professional and personal lives, Myles' resilience and hustle makes her an easy hero to stand up and cheer for."
James Queally, author of the Russel Avery novels and Los Angeles Times crime reporter
"With the sure hand of an old master, Alex Kenna’s debut blurs the line between catharsis and crime in this gritty and nimble noir mystery. When a routine investigation into the apparent suicide of art superstar Margot Starling becomes anything but, down-on-her-luck PI Kate Myles must square herself up for the fight of her life or lose it all. Entertaining and provocative, What Meets the Eye reminds us that truth often comes with a price tag much higher—and deadlier—than anything Sotheby's could ever hope to fetch at auction."
Katie Lattari, author of Dark Things I Adore
"Kenna gives us the LA crime story we want—a fronded, sun-beaten carousel of depravity and murder, all laced up with tight plotting, sharply hewn characters, and a gripping, original story."
Joseph Schneider, author of the Tully Jarsdel Mysteries
"A suspicious death dismissed as suicide leads PI Kate Myles deep into a web of blackmail and deceit, set against an intriguing backdrop of shady dealings in the art world. An all too human character, Kate is determined to piece together the wreckage of her life and career, and salvage her fractured relationship with her daughter. With clever twists & turns, and a host of convincing suspects along the way, the plot delivers a satisfying ending, but leaves us with tantalizing hints of more to come from Kate…"
Julie Cameron, author of Nameless Acts of Cruelty
This novel is a good debut effort. The heroine, Kate, is a flawed character but I appreciated that she was trying to get her life back on track. Her frequent pain led to a volatile personality. It took a while but I did grow to like her as her character was progressively developed. The murder victim was a unique character and I wavered between being disgusted by her and feeling sympathetic for her. Kenna did a good job of character development.
There is much in the novel about the world of art and the selling of it. I learned about art forgery, provenance, and how buyers can be fooled. I was surprised to learn about the tax loophole regarding art sales. I was also surprised at the increase in the value of paintings when the painter had died. Those facts provided two possible motives for the many suspects in the murder.
The aspect of the novel I did not like was its structure. There are many flashbacks to previous experiences involving many characters, each from the first person point of view. We read of many past and current experiences through the eyes of a number of people, including the murdered woman. I do not like that technique and found it hard to follow, even though the time period and person's name was clearly listed at the beginning of each chapter.
Even with a plot structure I do not prefer, I did like this novel. I think it is a very good debut effort. Kate, the heroine, seems to be growing into her PI role and I'll be watching for another of her adventures.
My rating: 4/5 stars.
Published by: Crooked Lane Books
Publication Date: December 2022
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 9781639101849 (ISBN10: 1639101845)
Book Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | BookShop.org | Goodreads | Penguin Random House
Read an excerpt:
Six Months Ago – Margot
All week long, I’d felt a fire in my belly. The spirit passed through me like lightning, brushes flying from wet canvas to wet canvas. Cooking was a waste of time, so I ordered takeout and drank whiskey. Sleep was out of the question. I cranked up the music and worked to the beat. Sometimes I sang along, dripping globs of color onto the floor. The paint went on smooth, like buttery icing. After a while, my brushes stayed in their jar and my fingers danced across the canvas. No bristles between skin and cloth.
Soon the images came alive. I’d been studying the Spanish greats: Velasquez, Goya, Zurbaran, Ribera. For them, it was all about bottomless darks with hints of warm, mellow light. I took a break from bold colors, indulging in white and yellow ochre on burnt sienna. The effect was sinister but mesmerizing. One after another, my hands pulled ghostly figures out of a dark void.
I finally passed out around dawn on Thursday, just as the birds were starting to chatter. When I woke, it was midafternoon, and the magic was gone. My mouth tasted of bile and I felt like someone had scooped out my eyeballs and punched me in the sockets.
I wandered into the bathroom and looked at myself in the mirror. One of Goya’s haggard witches stared back at me. My skin was the color of rice pudding. There were purple half-moons under my eyes and a cadmium streak in my hair. I picked at my nail beds, filled with Prussian blue. The thought of cleaning them was exhausting so I didn’t bother.
My stomach let out a growl and I stumbled over to the fridge. Nothing inside was fresh enough to tempt me. I turned to a soggy takeout container on the kitchen table. The waxed cardboard had partially melted, and a puddle of sauce oozed onto the table. A dead fruit fly was trapped inside the congealed orange liquid like a mosquito in amber. I pulled a half-eaten egg roll off last night’s dinner plate and popped it in my mouth. At least it was still crispy.
After lunch-breakfast-dinner, I had an edible and downed a pot of coffee. I tried to get back to work, but the electricity was gone. The images that were so alive last night now looked dull and mannered. A self-portrait smirked at me. I’d given myself a pouty red mouth like an Instagram twat and artificial jolly-rancher-green eyes. It was pathetic. The last desperate cry of a lonely train wreck nearing forty. I felt worthless. I should go jump off a bridge or wander onto the freeway.
I lay on the couch for what must have been hours, binge watching some show about British aristocrats and their servants. Thank God I wasn’t born in nineteenth century England. You can’t be a British lady if you’re a mouthy alcoholic who screws half the landed gentry. I would’ve done worse as a servant. I can barely fry an egg and half the time I’m too paralyzed by my own shit to get out of bed. I’d end up as a consumptive whore blowing sailors for my supper in a London tenement.
The curtains were drawn, and eventually light stopped leaking in from the window edges. I usually do better when the sun goes down. But nightfall didn’t bring me a second wind. It made me feel worse. I poured myself another drink and lit a cigarette.
My cell kept blowing up with a number I didn’t recognize. I’d had this phone for six months and never transferred my contacts over from the last one. Now my caller ID served as a kind of litmus test. If someone hadn’t reached out in half a year, they weren’t worth my time. I let it go to voicemail and turned back to the aristocrats. The only decent one was dead now. This show was making me tired.
There was a knock on the door. Probably the neighbor coming to tell me her baby couldn’t sleep because I make use of my electronics. I ignored it, took a swig of whiskey, and lit another cigarette.
Then whoever it was started pounding. “Margot, open up,” said a loud baritone. The voice was familiar, but I couldn’t place it. His tone had an edge of desperation. Could it be that cop from last week? A wave of dread flowed through me. My hands started shaking and a clump of ash fell on the couch. If I kept very still, maybe he’d think I wasn’t home and go away. No, the TV was too loud. He knew I was in here.
I tiptoed over to the keyhole and gasped. My drink flew from my hand and shattered, coating the floor in alcohol and shards of glass.
Excerpt from What Meets the Eye by Alex Kenna. Copyright 2022 by Alex Kenna. Reproduced with permission from Alex Kenna. All rights reserved.
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(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)
Thanks for the review! I think one sounds great. It has been getting some very good reviews. One more for the old wish list!
Thanks for taking the time to review my book!
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