Portrait of Deceit: A Kira Logan Mystery
by J. C. Andrew
Westwood Books Publishing

"All too often, you hear of ‘good boys’ who suddenly break loose and shoot up a school or church."

Frank Thornton is used to getting what he wants without delay, and, due to his profitable real estate agency, he has the bank account to make that happen in all areas of his public life. Thanks to his volcanic temper, he is able to get what he wants from those who should qualify as his loved ones. But where is the love in a man who beats his wife, Patricia, belittles his son, Dale, and unspeakably violates his daughter, Stephanie? That's more than artist and amateur detective Kira Logan can understand. It's no surprise to her, though, when Frank turns up dead of a gunshot wound. Motives to dispatch him are plentiful, but are they personal or, since he engages in dubious business practices, professional?

Frank and his business partner, Carlton Barlow, commission Kira to paint portraits of them and their wives. Free-thinking Kira develops an instant dislike for domineering, chauvinistic Frank, especially when he forbids her to socialize with his family outside her art studio. Kira manages to complete Frank's portrait before his murder. By the time it's done, she's fully aware that the image she has committed to canvas of the conservatively dressed unflappable businessman is just that—an image without substance. Once Frank is no longer among them, questions arise about what to do with the painting. Will his widow claim it and pay Kira for it? Should it be displayed anywhere, in fact? Meanwhile, Frank's friends and admirers must accept the realities of his evil secrets.

Kira, the courageous and talented protagonist in the author's series of mystery novels, admirably demonstrates the potential of women to be complete, fulfilled human beings who are not dependent on any partner, particularly a man, to define them. In this book, Andrew fearlessly yet sensitively addresses the topic of abuse in many of its forms. She writes of the differences between the ways men and women form and maintain their opinions of each other and perceive problems in other couples' relationships. She also refers to subtler forms of psychological abuse, such as Patricia's willingness to allow Dale to be arrested for a crime that is not his.

Each cast member in the author's drama is presented at the novel's beginning as an undeveloped work of art, whose character and abilities Kira uncovers as the plot progresses—a recurring trait of the series. Kira repeatedly voices her strong belief that lighting and the colors of clothing a portrait model wears reflect his or her personality and send messages the subject wishes to convey to the viewer. As in Andrew's other books, her love of various art forms and the Arizona landscape are obvious from her enthusiastic descriptions. Andrew herself is an award-winning weaver, sculptor, oil painter, and watercolorist, and the character of Kira produces art in all these forms in the story. The bronze sculpture medium is discussed in detail in this particular novel and may resonate with others who are interested in this art form. Fans of strong female protagonists may also find much to appreciate in this work.

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