Dying Art: A Brig Ellis Saga
by Joe Kilgore
Addison and Highsmith Publishers

"Life’s biggest sin, you know. Being a bore. That’s why I go out of my way to keep from being one."

From the onset, Kilgore wastes no time in separating his narrative from the run-of-the-mill whodunits. Brig Ellis, a decorated military veteran, is called upon by Lela, a former high school flame, to investigate what could either be disguised treachery or just a series of coincidences surrounding her husband—up-and-coming artist Tilton Mangas, who paints in human ashes. From this decidedly macabre yet highly creative opening, the plot accelerates at a breakneck speed in a tale imbued with an electric energy that ultimately pits age-old themes of morality, envy, and creativity against each other with deadly consequences.

Perhaps the element that hooks the reader the most is the numerous characters that could be the perpetrator—from competing artists and journalists to pastors and art titans. Whether it is a bull nearly goring Tilton, him being seconds away from becoming roadkill at the hands of a rogue SUV, or a fire that erupts into mayhem, the rising artist and his painting style are always front and center.

Though Ellis's witty remarks and on-point observations carry the novel, plot development is central to unveiling his personality's various layers. This helps him evolve from being seemingly infallible to a passionate individual who values relationships and is determined to see his commitments through.

Kilgore probes through a series of themes but none greater than the ethics of using "God's most precious creation" as art that manipulates death. On the one hand, characters like Pastor Tompkins never cease to express their dismay. On the other, Tilton argues that art blurs the reality between the living and dead. Overall, to the reader's delight, nothing comes easy as Ellis's package of personality and intuition is on full display while he races to find the murderer before more than just Tilton's art is at stake.

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