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A Grave Talent [Paperback]

Laurie R. King
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
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Book Description

June 1 1995
This gripping debut of the Kate Martinelli mystery series won the Edgar Award for Best First Mystery, generating wide critical acclaim and moving Laurie R. King into the upper tier of the genre. As A Grave Talent begins, the unthinkable has happened in a small community outside of San Francisco. A string of shocking murders has occurred, each victim an innocent child. For Detective Kate Martinelli, just promoted to Homicide and paired with a seasoned cop who's less than thrilled to be handed a green partner, it's going to be a difficult case. Then the detectives receive what appears to be a case-breaking lead: it seems that one of the residents of this odd, close-knit colony is Vaun Adams, arguably the century's greatest painter of women, a man, as it turns out, with a sinister secret. For behind the brushes and canvases also stands a notorious felon once convicted of strangling a little girl. What really happened on that day of savage violence eighteen years ago? To bring a murderer to justice, Kate must delve into the artist's dark past--even if she knows it means losing everything she holds dear.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Although it gets off to an uncertain start, this first mystery boasts an appealing female detective and a few good shocks delivered close to the end. Three children's bodies are found near a reclusive community of eccentrics not too many miles from San Francisco. Young cop Casey Martinelli and her embittered, tyrannical partner Alonzo Hawkins think they've identified the perfect suspect in Vaun Adams, the community's resident artist, who once was convicted of murdering a child and who is secretive even by the standards of her weird neighbors. Adams is a strong, enigmatic creation: haunted, gothic and broadly dysfunctional, with a dark past that may contain the lurking killer. But the plot exhibits cracks--a tenuous piece of deduction conveniently dictates that the murder suspects can come only from the community--and King stumbles several times in developing her detectives' characters. She is coy about revealing the gender of Casey's lover (most readers will spot the "surprise" a mile off), and she lets Hawkins' initially gruff manner dissipate within a dozen pages. If King plans a series, she will need to flesh out her protagonists.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

An omniscient narrator endows this amazing first novel with intelligence, intrigue, and intricacy. The serial murders of three kindergarten-aged girls test the uncomfortable relationship between a crusty San Francisco detective and his new female partner, both known for their independence. Eventually, unforeseen complications involving a remarkable artist's past and an evil stalker's secretive present force the pair into confrontation, and they learn to trust. This work exhibits strong psychological undertones, compelling urgency, and dramatic action. A necessary purchase and a writer to watch.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars --Well done-- Jan. 15 2004
Format:Paperback
Laurie King did a wonderful job in writing this story. It's difficult for me to believe that it's her first novel.
A GRAVE TALENT is the story of a murder investigation. There are two homicide officers in charge of the case. Alonzo Hawkin is a veteran detective who is partnered with Casey Martinelli, a young woman who had just received a promotion. The investigation involves the murders of three little girls. A beautiful and talented artist is the main suspect because she had been convicted of a similar crime seventeen years ago.
The author keeps the reader interested by the many twists and turns in the story.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Heartily recommended July 18 2003
Format:Paperback
An excellent book I'd heartily recommend to anyone interested in mysteries/thrillers with an art twist. It is a San Francisco police investigation, revolving around a famous female artist, Vaun Adams, who has been in jail (under another name) for the murder of a child. When three more little girls are murdered near her current home, a hippie enclave, she's the logical suspect. But the detectives almost immediately conclude that she was wrongly convicted the first time, and is the victim of a frame by someone who hates her. The art elements (the description of her work, of her studio, and of her) as well as the characterizations, settings, private lives, motivations and detection are handled extremely well. The identification of the criminal, and the police pursuit of Vaun Adam's enemy, trying to catch him before he can kill again, is packed with suspense.
As far as I know, King has not written again about the art world. I wish she would. I think I've read every art-related mystery still in print, and a lot that aren't, and this is one of the best. She includes the perfect amount of information about art and the artist, enough so the reader has a sense of it, an understanding of the plot, but not enough to bore the reader.
Was this review helpful to you?
5.0 out of 5 stars Heartily recommended July 18 2003
Format:Paperback
An excellent book I'd heartily recommend to anyone interested in mysteries/thrillers with an art twist. It is a San Francisco police investigation, revolving around a famous female artist, Vaun Adams, who has been in jail (under another name) for the murder of a child. When three more little girls are murdered near her current home, a hippie enclave, she's the logical suspect. But the detectives almost immediately conclude that she was wrongly convicted the first time, and is the victim of a frame by someone who hates her. The art elements (the description of her work, of her studio, and of her) as well as the characterizations, settings, private lives, motivations and detection are handled extremely well. The identification of the criminal, and the police pursuit of Vaun Adam's enemy, trying to catch him before he can kill again, is packed with suspense.
As far as I know, King has not written again about the art world. I wish she would. I think I've read every art-related mystery still in print, and a lot that aren't, and this is one of the best. She includes the perfect amount of information about art and the artist, enough so the reader has a sense of it, an understanding of the plot, but not enough to bore the reader.
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't be Blinded by the Cover. May 13 2003
Format:Paperback
I began this novel blind-sighted by its fluorescing orange cover but finished it with a clear vision of Laurie King´¿s characters and the motive behind the crimes. The plot allows for digressions into her characters' histories and the murderer's motive. Her digressions prove that she is in no rush to publish sequential novels, which is a fault, in my opinion, of the many other murder mysteries I have read for a college course. The reader is allowed to get to know her characters with time, just as any relationship requires. For example, the relationship she creates between her lead detectives Kate Martinelli and AL Hawkin is honest. They start out testing one another and it is only when each has proven his/her capability that a trust is formed. It is not a matter of gender as I had suspected at the start of the novel. Upon the introduction of Hawkin I was concerned that King was going to depict him as the stereotypical male- chauvinist-boss-man character that Martinelli will have to gloriously over come. Not so. Hawkin is as judgmental as anyone would be when assigned a high profile case with a new-to-the-job partner. He is different because he is open to her success. He respects her when she demonstrates her strength in the field.
To understand Hawkin, Martinelli, and her other characters, King doesn´¿t just tell the reader but rather shows their personalities through their emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. In addition to accomplishing strong character development, this technique validates any motive behind the crimes. There is a digression into the past of Vaun Adams, the suspected murderer, that provides information on why she could or could not be the murderer and if not, than reasons to suspect another.
I suggest putting sunglasses on so that this book can be approached and read. I finished this book eager to know Kate and Al and the gang better in King's mysteries to come.
Was this review helpful to you?
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't be Blinded by the Cover. May 13 2003
Format:Paperback
I began this novel blind-sighted by its fluorescing orange cover but finished it with a clear vision of Laurie King's characters and the motive behind the crimes. The plot allows for digressions into her characters' histories and the murderer's motive. Her digressions prove that she is in no rush to publish sequential novels, which is a fault, in my opinion, of the many other murder mysteries I have read for a college course. The reader is allowed to get to know her characters with time, just as any relationship requires. For example, the relationship she creates between her lead detectives Kate Martinelli and AL Hawkin is honest. They start out testing one another and it is only when each has proven his/her capability that a trust is formed. It is not a matter of gender as I had suspected at the start of the novel. Upon the introduction of Hawkin I was concerned that King was going to depict him as the stereotypical male- chauvinist-boss-man character that Martinelli will have to gloriously over come. Not so. Hawkin is as judgmental as anyone would be when assigned a high profile case with a new-to-the-job partner. He is different because he is open to her success. He respects her when she demonstrates her strength in the field.
To understand Hawkin, Martinelli, and her other characters, King doesn't just tell the reader but rather shows their personalities through their emotions, behaviors, and thoughts. In addition to accomplishing strong character development, this technique validates any motive behind the crimes. There is a digression into the past of Vaun Adams, the suspected murderer, that provides information on why she could or could not be the murderer and if not, than reasons to suspect another.
I suggest putting sunglasses on so that this book can be approached and read. I finished this book with a desire to get to know Kate and Al and the gang better in King's mysteries to come.
Was this review helpful to you?
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Strong readable narrative
Do you enjoy great writing for its own sake? Then this book is for you. But I was dissapointed with the story. Read more
Published on May 10 2004 by Kathryn R. Sullivan
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring and Implausible
This is a mystery with very little mystery -- the killer is revealed fairly early in the book, and there is no challenge or excitement in trying to guess who it is, since no real... Read more
Published on April 4 2003
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Read
This is a good mystery. The setting is is unique and the mystery within a mystery is compelling. Why would someone do such horrible things? Read more
Published on March 8 2003 by addicted to mysteries
5.0 out of 5 stars A great talent...
I´¿m such a fan of Laurie King that I can´¿t quite believe that I´¿ve never read her Kate Martinelli series. Read more
Published on March 3 2003 by Laurie Fletcher
4.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Farfetched
I really enjoyed this book but the ending was a bit far-fetched. I can let the lover's involvement slide but I know that a cop would never allow her own home to be used in an... Read more
Published on Nov. 18 2002 by "2hoo"
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!!
I picked up this book by accident looking for something to do. I hadn't read a novel in years. Surprisingly within the first few chapters all I could think of was the book. Read more
Published on Oct. 10 2001 by "bqbambi"
2.0 out of 5 stars I really wanted to like this book.
I really wanted to like this one because King's Mary Russell books are so extraordinarily good. This first Kate Martinelli book introduces several interesting characters. Read more
Published on May 27 2001 by MLPlayfair
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good, enjoyable.
This was a very good mystery that held my interest throughout during a very distracting time. The story was very well written and interesting.
Published on Nov. 27 2000
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