"The Killer's Art" is Mari Jungstedt's fourth and latest offering in the Inspector Anders Knutas series. The plot centers on the shocking murder of Egon Wallin, Visby's successful and well-liked gallery owner, whose body is found hanging early one morning from the Dalman Gate in the city wall. The sensational nature of the murder, which occurred during the night after a very successful show at the victim's gallery, attracts the attention of the press, and reporter Johan Berg is again heading to the island of Gotland to cover the story. The ensuing investigation by Knutas and his team raises many questions but precious few answers, and everyone gets discouraged. Not until a small statue by a minor artist is found deliberately placed at the scene of a museum robbery does the investigation gain some traction and begin to move forward again. But it takes a second murder of another gallery owner before the pieces begin to form a coherent picture and Knutas can get the killer in his sights.
In addition to a clever mystery with several possible suspects, Jungstedt provides a very interesting and seductive introduction to Swedish art history by anchoring the plot to the theft of a well-known painting entitled "The Dying Dandy" by Swedish artist August Dardel. What Arnaldur Indridason's <em>Artic Chill</em> does for Icelandic poet Steinn Steinarr, Jungstedt's "The Killer's Art" does for Dardel by using fiction as an ambassador for her country's flesh-and-blood artists. Jungstedt also weaves other Swedish artists into the narrative as well, along with some biographical tidbits about the artists and their families, friends, and paramours. Additionally, part of the action is set in Gotland's landmark artist colony known as Muramaris, which supplies a bit of romantic intrigue to the overall tone.
The story, however, is somewhat diluted by the crowded cast of characters, and readers will need to pay close attention right from the start to keep them all straight. Along with the murder plot, there are several continuing narrative threads providing updates on returning characters, including the reporter Johan Berg and Emma, the mother of Berg's child. There are also tensions within the detective squad and Knutas must face rebellion at some of his personnel decisions. With the focus constantly shifting it's easy to become disoriented as location and perspective change. But despite these challenges, Knutas fans will cheer the detective's return and new readers will find a rich setting to explore.