by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of Carl Brookins new mystery novel The Case of the Purloined Painting, an interview with Carl, & at the end of the post are details on how to win a copy of the book.
The Case of the Purloined Painting By Carl Brookins
Review by Cynthia Chow
Lack of height has never hampered five foot tall private detective, Sean Sean, the tracer of lost persons, collector of evidence of malfeasance and revealer of fraudsters and thieves. However, for his current cases, Sean’s greatest tasks will be trying to investigate the motivations and identities of his actual clients. The probably-not-his-real-name, Mr. Gehrz, is using his cash retainer to hire Sean to find Tiffany Market, a woman with whom Gehrz claims to have once had a relationship but who has since disappeared. The second client who pops into Sean’s office is Ann/Anne, a woman who refuses to give her identity but who hires Sean to report to the police her witnessing of a murder. Ann/Anne professes to have seen an argument and subsequent tossing of a man’s body off of a bridge, but she refuses to become involved with the police and insists that Sean be her intermediary.
Not surprisingly, Sean has doubts about both cases but he gainfully pursues the matters, especially when a referral from a prominent attorney has him employed by Aaron Gottlieb, the grandnephew of a man who just happened to have died after falling–or getting thrown off of–the Stone Arch Bridge. Eventually, Sean follows the many trails of his clients and his suspects back to World War II, when priceless works of art were stolen by soldiers and would become the foundations of present-day fortunes. Working within the law and utilizing refreshingly cooperative police contacts, Sean Sean wittily solves decades-old crimes without brandishing weapons or brute force.
This latest Sean Sean mystery highlights a unique hero whose wits and charm get him out of trouble more often than violence and acts of strength. He has a very charged and lively relationship with his Amazonian masseuse girlfriend, Catherine Mckerney, a woman with the brains to match her good looks. While they bounce ideas and theories between one another, Sean does his best to keep their professional lives separate and Catherine out of harm’s way.
Brookins has crafted a very twisty plot that neatly ties together in the end, satisfying even the most jaded of mystery readers. Sean is an original and engaging hero whose sense of self-preservation and common sense sets him apart from so many stereotypical loner and seemingly invulnerable detectives.
Interview With Carl Brookins:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Carl: Fiction? Since about 1990. I took a class at the Loft in Minneapolis to learn “how to write a mystery.”
KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called?
Carl: My first novel is titled Inner Passages and for a long time was called a “new age rite of passage” book. Wrong. It was released in 2001. It’s crime fiction set in the Inside Passage off British Columbia. The labeling illustrates how careful you have to be with titles as well as everything else in your books. The title referred to part of the book that dealt with Tanner’s descent into alcoholism after the murder of his beloved wife and partner and ostracism by her family. Some of that was edited out. I should have changed the title to “The Inner Passage,” where the book takes place. Subsequent books in the series have places in their titles.
KRL: A little about it?
Carl: Tanner and his wife are deliberately run down while sailing in the Inside Passage. With no evidence of the other craft, authorities are no help so after almost losing his PR agency in Seattle, due to grief and drinking, Michael Tanner leaves his agency and sets out to find his wife’s killers.
KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?
Carl: In fiction, yes, mysteries/suspense/adventure stories are my love.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Carl: The Case of the Purloined Painting came about because of a documentary, The Rape of Europa, I saw, plus reading a book called The Monuments Men, which is becoming a movie.
Early in WWII our government and Britain realized that the European war was endangering cultural resources, some of which, like churches and monasteries and large statuary, couldn’t be moved. After Monte Cassini in Italy was heavily bombed, a unit was formed to advise resistance and bomber commands to help them avoid unnecessary attacks. Fast forward to the Iraq invasion when American troops stood by and allowed vandals to pillage Baghdad museums. I was shocked and decided to write a detective story about a personal act of theft resulting in murder and retribution. My detective, Sean NMI Sean, has rules: he doesn’t do divorce, doesn’t mess with organized crime and never takes cases involving international crime. So when an Israeli agent decides to check on his partner’s cover, he hires the best PI in town to “find” her. His partner has witnessed the murder of a Polish Jew who has moved to Minneapolis and brought with him a document that reveals the names of prominent Nazis still alive who were involved in the stealing of art works in Poland. Foreign agents come to town to retrieve the notebook and bring murder and mayhem in their wake.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Carl: I write commercial fiction to entertain. However, I strive to incorporate in my writing thoughtful ideas of right and wrong, implications of our actions on those around us and, what brings a normally lawful person to commit the ultimate act—murder.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Carl: I usually do my most productive creative writing early in the morning. Now a habit, it began when I was writing while still working full-time. Now well retired, I still get up early and write from six to eight a.m.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Carl: I do not outline. I’ve been called an organic writer. I start at the beginning and write until the story is told. Then I stop. That also means I do a lot of revising, which I love, by the way; polishing and deleting. I have no problem eliminating sentences, paragraphs, even pages that no longer fit or are deficient in some way.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Carl: Mornings definitely. At my age, I usually have more creative energy in the early hours.
KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?
Carl: Define difficult. I finished my first novel. Note parenthetically I had by then been published in many venues including television scripts writing for business radio and so on. In addition, I’m married to a very successful publisher so I have some insights into the business. With that as background, I wrote to around 30 agents once Inner Passages was finished, was either ignored or rejected. On advice of local friendly writers, I researched other options, contacted six small publishers, was accepted by two and chose Top Publications in Dallas Texas. They have been supportive until it was time for me to move on. Since then, I have mostly focused on unagented circumstances and I’m happy with that.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Carl: No, except the timing of the current detective novel against the discovery in Munich of 1400+ paintings and other art works mis-appropriated by the Nazis seems to me slightly unbelievable.
KRL: Most interesting book signing story-in a bookstore or other venue?
Carl: You mean the ones where it was just me, the bookstore owner and the owner’s parakeet?
KRL: Future writing goals?
Carl: Continue to write my three series, review crime fiction and avoid serious mistakes or breakdowns
KRL: Writing heroes?
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Carl: Whatever is necessary. I have contacts all over the place in all kinds of professions and other areas (I’m old) but mostly I call people and/or interview them.
KRL: What do you read?
Carl: Three daily newspapers, lots and lots of crime fiction, online news blogs, websites Facebook and Twitter.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Carl: I confess, I’m a TV junkie. I had a good career in public TV before the academic one. I watch a lot of crime drama on TV, the BBC, most PBS major programs. As far as film is concerned, I watch a lot of foreign and domestic drama.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Carl: Persist. Write and write the best you can. Learn the ins and outs of being an independent business person. That means taking a professional business-like approach to hiring an agent, a publisher, a publicist and so on.
KRL: How do you feel about the growing popularity of e-books?
Carl: I’m energized by the influence of the technology. The reduction in influence of the gatekeepers will bring more new and unusual good quality writing to readers. Of course, it will also bring more new dreck, but that’s to be expected.
KRL: Do you read e-books yourself?
Carl: Yes, I have a Nook and a Kobo and I read Kindle e-books on my computers
I also read and review for Buried Under Books and the Amazon Vine segment.
KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?
KRL: How do you compete in an overcrowded market?
Carl: Ah. With patience and persistence. Spend less time and energy worrying about daily sales ripples and more time writing good stories and working at making useful contacts and finding the kinds of manageable marketing and promotional opportunities that are out there. Be sure to cultivate librarians and bookstore folks, both large and small.
To enter to win a copy of The Case of the Purloined Painting, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Dying,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen November 23, 2013. U.S. residents only.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.