Painting in the Dark
'His masterpiece to date,' said the Guardian. An old woman has dark secrets in her past, when she and her sister were intimates of Hitler & Goering. During the 1997 Election, as Tony Blair sweeps to power, art dealer Gottleisch and his evil helper Ticky think she has hoarded her sister’s valuable paintings. They're determined to get them, whatever it takes. 'Exceptional,' said Booklist. More
There are two main threads to the book: a modern crime story and the recollections of an 85-year-old woman with dark secrets in her past. Set during the British General Election of 1997 when Tony Blair swept to power, the story bounces back to the 1930s when another charismatic leader rose in Europe. That story is revealed through flashbacks to the life of a British Nazi sympathiser and her artist sister, both intimates of Hitler and Goering.
In 1997, art dealer Gottleisch and his evil assistant Ticky think she has hoarded her sister’s valuable paintings, and they are determined to get hold of them. Gottfleisch is clever and gargantuan; Ticky is a physically repellent and pathetic paedophile. They pit themselves against the equally controversial Sidonie, now an 85-year-old recluse. Born into minor aristocracy, mingling with the art set, meeting dark luminaries such as Mosley, Hitler and Hermann Goering – how could she be anything other than a villain? One of the many surprises of this much-praised book is the way the characters confound the reader’s expectations.
With its background sweep, from the Thirties to Blair’s triumphant election victory in the late Nineties, this was the author’s most-praised novel:
“Ambitious, imaginative, almost-true story of Nazi-loving Brit sisters Naomi and Sidonie Keene, who, in the 1930s, took up with Hitler and Co – genuinely because they saw them as charismatic makers of gem-hard, gem-bright new Europe – and as a result became known as the Traitorous Toffs ... Extremely shrewd mingling of near-fact and fiction, with memories of the Mitfords (Unity actually puts in an appearance) tincturing the narrative ... James really scores when he sticks to his political might-have-been. His dark imaginings are potent, gripping and memorable.” - Philip Oakes in The Literary Review
“His masterpiece to date, eclipsing much of contemporary British mystery writing with its compassion, meticulous plotting, historical relevance and chilling subject matter. A complex tale of art treasures in which the present has to face the horrors of the past, in particular those of Nazi Germany, this is a courageous and ambitious novel.” - Maxim Jakubowski in the Guardian
“A terrific, cultured tale of crime for the sake of art,” - Marcel Berlins in The Times
“A novel which prompts a dozen questions about our own attitudes to the past. But it reaches further into dark areas of the present, not dissimilar to the darkness in which the fascism of the 1930s was born.” - Donald James in Time Out
“James cleverly interweaves the past and the present to unfold a sophisticated, chilling story of deceit and betrayal. A thoroughly gripping, multi-layered novel from an acknowledged British master of hard-edged crime.” - The Mail On Sunday
“This is just a tremendous book, dealing with difficult subjects and issues deftly, sensitively, and thoughtfully. I really hate to use the word ‘masterpiece’ if it’s at all avoidable, but I just don't see how to get around it in this case. There’s no other way to describe Painting In The Dark.” - Victoria Esposito-Shea, Editor-in-Chief and Co-Founder, HandHeldCrime
“A mesmerizing mystery thriller that is also a chillingly compelling examination of evil. This is an exceptional book from one of the UK’s finest genre writers.” - Emily Melton, in a Booklist starred review.