“Rembrandt is quoted as saying, “Without atmosphere, painting is nothing.” Without atmosphere, neither is a great novel.
Patricia Ketola’s debut novel, Dirty Pictures, is poetic at times, sad, humorous, gripping, joyful, thrilling, and hopeful. A thoroughly captivating tale, rich in atmosphere, that is near impossible to put down.
Still recovering from the death of her mother, New York art dealer Elizabeth Martel is hired as an art advisor by a corporate billionaire—and fouler of the earth—Preston Graylander, after a meeting with him was arranged by her dear and lifelong friend Terry Volkov. The infamous Graylander has in his possession a rare Rembrandt painting that he wants Martel to have cleaned and is willing to pay, and fly her to Amsterdam, to have it done. Terry, who is partially paralyzed after a motorcycle accident, lures Martel into a plot to help him kill Graylander, and then himself, in a murder-suicide. Terry urges Martel to help, telling her that it is a way to get a little revenge on one of the people who are destroying the earth. Martel reluctantly agrees to help carry it out, by setting up Graylander to meet with Terry.
Soon after, Martel travels to Amsterdam where she is met by Hendrik Van der Saar, a former lover, and with his brother, Willem, owner of a fine arts company there. They agree to examine the painting, and Hendrik and Martel pick up where they left off years ago, beginning an intense love affair, with even more feeling and passion than before.
Their happiness is hindered by hidden family secrets that slowly come to the surface. Henrik’s son, Bobby, is half-Revata gypsy and a famous strung-out guitar virtuoso. Bobby and his sister Venessa are suspected of an incestuous relationship. Soon there are all sorts of fully developed characters populating the Rembrandt question. Is it a true painting by the master or a forgery? There is a Joan Collins look-alike, two mobsters from New Jersey tailing Martel, a blue butterfly, a policeman with his own secrets, two young free-climbers, and a loveable, but scary at times, huge Bouvier des Flanders dog named Rowley.
The author fills her canvas with floral arrangements, delectable foods, fine clothing, art, street markets, exotic locations, and music. From Ray Lamontagne to Jim Hall, Chet Baker, Paul Desmond, and Spanish flamenco classical guitarist Paco de Lucia, and the beautiful, haunting, Arunjuez Concierto. Life at its fullest and a profound love straight on, through revelations, tragedy, pain, and eventually acceptance of place.
There are moments when Patricia Ketola’s writing is like that of a wandering poet, as in this paragraph:
“We went to Venice for our honeymoon. It was in the middle of winter and most of the tourist spots were closed. We walked around in the fog, and the mist like lost travelers who had stumbled upon an ancient unknown, ruin of a city. It seemed that Venice, whose derelict charms grew ever more enticing with age, was still able to enchant. As we voyaged through her empty streets, we took on the ambiance of the city, we became as transparent as wraiths and as empty as stone. We were still vastly in love.”
Patricia Ketola is a daring new literary voice, and Dirty Pictures is the beginning of a truly significant career.”
Marvin Minkler, Modern First Editions
Listen to an excerpt from the novel:
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