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“If you are in the mood for something different, this may be it.”

December 10, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Dirty Pictures by Patricia Ketola reviewed by Paul Burke in NB Magazine

This novel is extremely well-written, it reads like a page-turner and the story is fascinating, but it won’t be for everyone, it might even be described as niche. Here’s why I think it might not appeal to some: If you want a straightforward thriller or a straightforward romance you might not get this, it’s a bit of a genre-bender. Dirty Pictures is a love story and it’s a story of murder, it has elements of the family saga, twentieth century politics, art history and a definite erotic tinge. More than anything, it’s Martel’s story, she narrates a beguiling tale, this is her life, her world – it goes where it goes, unapologetically. As a love story it is unsentimental, as a thriller it’s intriguing. If the fact that it doesn’t fit nicely into a specific box puts you off you will miss out.

Ketola has her own ways of seeing things, she makes leaps and connections in ways that more conformist linear storytellers wouldn’t. Dirty Pictures isn’t surreal but it tips way over the edge of orthodox behaviour. That’s not a bad thing. Parts of the story you might expect to be followed up are abandoned; it’s unsettling, but also very true to life. Experience is a series of events that we weave a path in and out of, we don’t have perfect knowledge, we move on. Where the narrative drive appears to divert from expectation, and we are directed to a new theme, the novel becomes more exciting. One thing leads to another, and then the story moves on, plot lines are discarded, and it’s invigorating to read. You will have no idea where it will all end up, but you won’t be disappointed.

Elizabeth Martel, known as Martel, has her bottle of tequila and her mother’s Percocet to hand, oblivion here we come, but then Terry rings. Normally she would rush over to her disabled friend’s house (he was hurt in a bike accident), but she’s already pissed, she is mourning her mother, Carlene, so he will have to wait. So the next morning Terry sympathises over Clara’s death (he grew with Martel but he still can’t get her mother’s name right). Then he offers her a job – and she’d be doing him a favour. It’s worth $10,000 just to check it out, and she could use the money.

Patricia Ketola

Agri-business billionaire Preston Greylander has a Rembrandt, Martel is an expert on Dutch and Flemish art. The painting needs cleaning and he needs advice on how. Greylander is a detestable man, a typical WASP, he is also a destroyer of countries and continents in the pursuit of profit. Martel advises Greylander to have to painting restored by Van der Saar in Amsterdam. She doesn’t mention that she first learned art on Hendrik van der Saar’s knee, literally and figuratively. After her meeting with Greylander, Martel insists on knowing why Terry also had her invite him to a cocktail party. Terry has had enough of life and in a grand gesture he wants to take Greylander with him: murder-suicide.

“I’m through with this life.’ he said. ‘I have a need to get it over with, and while I’m doing it I might as well take that rotten bastard with me.”

Martel agrees to take the painting to the restorer in Holland, it will be the first time she has seen her former lover in twenty years. For the privilege, she gets $25,000 and expenses. While the firm of Van der Saar clean the painting, Martel and Hendrik rekindle their love affair. When she is back in the US, Martel brings Greylander to the cocktail party and to his death. The crime is instantly covered up, Martel’s contract is cancelled, but paid in full. The painting is still in Amsterdam. Pookie Greylander, now 102, although she lies about her age, is part of the Swiss branch of the family, she wants the Rembrandt. The family lawyer wants the restorer to “find” a signature on the canvas ($1M).

Hendrik has a confession to make (more than one, actually quite a few!). Martel also has confessions to make, if the two are to become permanent lovers and trustful friends again. Martel thinks she is being followed: maybe the family of Preston Greylander have connected her to the crime and want revenge? Hendrik says Pookie Greylander has the Rembrandt painting now, but does she? Is it an original or a fake? Did Hendrik add a signature to increase the value and “authenticate” the work per the lawyers “request”? The story will diverge in ways you won’t see coming – just go with the flow.

So why would Martel so easily agree to the murder of a man she doesn’t know? Well, there’s history here. Her family lost their farm in Dakota and became miners in Colorado because of the Greylanders. Her family has a radical tradition from the Wobblies to the present day. Terry has his own fascinating story. So does Hendrik, but the politics of the past generations of his family and Martel’s don’t align.

There is a leap of faith or two here, but Dirty Pictures is fun. If you are in the mood for something different this may be it. The world isn’t always neat and tidy, neither is Ketola’s vision.

Paul Burke

Original review here: https://nbmagazine.co.uk/dirty-pictures-by-patricia-ketola/

Christmas nostalgia : Our authors about the best book gift they have ever received (Part 2)

December 13, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Patricia Ketola, author of Dirty Pictures

One Christmas, when I was about ten years old, I received a copy of R. L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The book was an unusual choice for a little girl, but I was so thrilled by the marvellous tale of adventure that I could not put it down.  Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver captured my imagination and I wanted to join them on the high seas and participate in their quest for treasure. Treasure Island is such a vivid and stimulating work that it’s still with me after all these years.

Craig McDonald, author of the Hector Lassiter series

Many years ago, at the height of my book collecting period, my wife handled contact with Scorpion Press in the UK when I was ordering a signed and numbered edition of James Ellroy’s memoir, My Dark Places. That same Christmas, she surprised me with the far rarer lettered edition, of which only 15 were produced.

Kevin Stevens, author of Reach the Shining River

When I was eleven years old, my father gave me a beautifully illustrated leather-bound edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. I read the novel then, have read it many times since, and it remains for me a touchstone of wisdom and great storytelling.

Les Edgerton, author of The Death of Tarpons

The best book gift I’ve ever received, I’ve received perhaps two dozen times. Same book. I have a pile of hardcover copies of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, my favorite book. Most of my friends know it’s my favorite book and so for years I keep receiving various copies of it. And, I love each and every one of them!

Fionnuala Brennan, author of The Painter’s Women

It is not easy to choose the best book present I ever received as what was best then I might not regard as the best now. However, I have chosen a book which I received many years ago because I remember it well and think many of its lessons are relevant today.  The book is Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly (Knopf, 1984).  She writes of what she terms ‘follies’, the paradoxes of history, from the Trojan War to Vietnam.  Tuchman (1917-1989) was not an academic historian and perhaps that is why her books, while they could be faulted for not being sufficiently rigorous, were widely read and won her two Pulitzer prizes.

To be continued…

Interview with Patricia Ketola, novelist, author of DIRTY PICTURES

April 27, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Patricia Ketola is interviewed by Petar Odak, editor and reviewer.

Late blooming in the world of literature is not that rare: Toni Morrison published her first novel when she was thirty-nine, P. D. James when she was forty-two, and Penelope Fitzgerald and Frank McCourt started in their sixties. Still, it is quite unusual for the debut novel to be published by a writer in her early seventies, especially as it deals with the questions of sexuality, incest, female power and political terrorism. Of course, it would be unfair to limit Patricia Ketola’s first novel Dirty Pictures just to this set of controversial topics. No, this hidden little gem is a powerful, if quirky, contemplation on love, life and death. Unable to find a publisher in the USA, this American writer found its home with the independent Dublin publisher Betimes Books. Intrigued by the novel, we decided to talk with Ketola about her writing and the way it relates to our current political and cultural situation.

Petar Odak: Your novel transcends genres; it is impossible to fit in one box. Was this your aim from the beginning, or did the novel develop its own logic through time, maybe even surprising you in the end?

Patricia Ketola: In Dirty Pictures I was writing about subjects that interest me and I didn’t have any particular genre in mind. My aim was to fill every page with lively, exciting material. As you suggest, the piece did develop its own logic over time.  I was not surprised by the end result, but I was surprised when some
readers thought DP was an unusual take on a Romance novel.

PO: Although Dirty Pictures is undoubtedly a fun and exciting novel, many key points of the story actually deal with death; it opens with the death of a protagonist’s mother, follows with a pretty rational and not-at-all desperate suicide of a friend and then finishes with the protagonist’s partner chopunch a osing to spend his last days surrounded by his loved ones instead of enduring the tortuous, exhausting and often hopeless procedure of chemotherapy. It seems thus that your novel suggests a different view on the natural cycle of life and the inevitability of death. What is your opinion on that?

PK: When I started writing DP, I was mourning the deaths of several significant people in my life.  I was writing out of a sense of loss and that is probably why death figures so prominently in the novel. At my age death is the next big adventure, and I believe one should approach it with grace and acceptance.  I don’t think people should suffer unnecessarily, or be coerced into needless treatment by the Medical/Pharmaceutical industry.  If this idea is outside the norm, so be it.

PO:  After the ‘Punch a Nazi’ (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uCnPOEJDWIk) video went viral, there was a heated debate among the liberal left regarding the use of violence when dealing with fascists. Your protagonist, Martel, does not seem to have doubts about that, willingly helping her friend to murder Preston Greylander, CEO of a huge agri-business combine noted for “trying to gain the world’s food supply” and for participating in “genocide in Africa”. Yet when dealing with the attempted burglars at Madame Lillian’s house, Martel steps in to prevent further torture. What are your feelings about using violence against violence?

PK: I don’t approve of the video at all.  That kind of action seems stupid, callow, and cowardly. I don’t know anything about the debate among ‘leftists’, so I can’t comment on it.  As for Martel, she believes that people who commit genocide and attempt to control the world’s resources for profit are the enemy. Although she would not have initiated the action herself, she takes Terry’s point and agrees to help him.  If he had asked her to help torture Preston to death, she would not have participated.  I certainly draw a firm line between assassination and torture, as illustrated by Martel’s defence of the burglars.

As for violence against violence, who knows?  Not everyone one can be a Gandhi, or espouse the fine ideals of Tolstoy. Humans seem to have difficulty being peaceable and are not adept at developing their higher natures.  Maybe we are just a bunch of predators who like to fight and kill.

PO: Your novel is filled with anti–establishment and anti–capitalist political statements, even including some acts of left terrorism. There are some ironic remarks on the political situation in United States as well. What is your stance on Trump’s America?

PK: I was brought up in a tough neighbourhood by a working class family that had socialist views.  In fact, it was rumored that some of the relatives were actual Communists. This background, combined with my natural rebellious spirit, led quite naturally to social criticism. Unlike many of my acquaintances, I hold no particular hatred towards Donald Trump.  I doubt that he is any worse than what we had before.

PO: There is a lot of eroticism in your book including some explicit sex scenes. Martel is also a keen observer of the male body and often joyfully describes it to the reader. I must say, I found it refreshing to see the subverting of normal gender roles when it comes to sexuality in literature. Did you feel that there was a need for female characters to be more open about their enjoyment of sex?

Rembrandt, “The Jewish Bride”

PK: No, I didn’t feel the need for a female character to be more open about enjoyment of sex. I like writing about sex because it is so difficult.  Putting such emotions and feelings into words is damn near impossible and I’m quite proud of my efforts.

PO: Martel is a straight-talking, brash female character who, for many readers, is a rare find. Do you feel that we need more female characters like Martel in literature, TV, film etc. who are unapologetic about their lifestyle? Or do you fear that by doing so such characters will be overused and possibly become another female trope?

PK: Current feminism is not sympathetic to a character like Martel, so I doubt we need to be worried about overuse.

PO: Are you as passionate a lover of art as your novel suggests and as your characters undoubtedly are?

PK: Absolutely. I’ve lived my life in pursuit of art and beauty and the transcendent experience.  I tend to become slightly ecstatic when I view a great work of art. My appreciation is not limited to one period, school, or culture.  Personally, I would like to see a lot more public art.  Not everyone can visit a museum, gallery, or cathedral, but everyone deserves to get a glimpse of the beautiful and profound.

Art in the city: “Maternité” by Gérard Ramon (France)

PO: With your background in art, travel and cultural anthropology this novel must have been a labour of love to research. The detail you give to each characters’ clothing and musical and artistic preferences is extraordinary. Did this require extensive research or were you already very familiar with and happy to write about the various fashion labels and musicians?

PK: I don’t do much research. My personal experience is such that I have a lot of information stored in my brain. When working on a piece, I make a big collage of pictures relating to the subject matter and look at it for inspiration. Prior to writing I listen to music, in this case gypsy guitar and Chet Baker. 

PO: The world of art dealing plays a very important role in your novel.  Does Martel’s ambivalence – she enjoys working with art pieces, but at the same time despises her rich and often uneducated customers – reflect your own critical stance or at least some kind of reticence when it comes to the money-oriented art market?

PK: Western Art has always been about power, money, or religion.  Most of the old masters were working for dukes or kings or princes of the Church. Painters like Rembrandt were working for the rising bourgeoisie. The production of paintings and statuary only became art for art’s sake in the 19th century, and a lot of artists lost their sponsors because their work was considered too radical by the buyers and sellers. As a result, many ended up unrecognized and living in poverty. I  hate the fact that a brilliant artist like Modigliani died neglected and broke, and that in current times his works are praised to the skies and sold for millions. The realities of today’s art game are grotesque and scandalous, but it’s nothing new. The billionaires of today want to be like the big shots of yesteryear, and the dealers and auctioneers are only too happy to accommodate them.

PO: How did you go about researching the European places mentioned in the novel? You write of Amsterdam (and indeed other places in the Netherlands and in Europe) as if you were a local. Have you in fact lived there before or did you have to visit the city, its museums and galleries and go off the beaten track a little to experience the “real”?

PK: I’ve never actually lived in Europe, but I used to visit twice a year. I usually find a city I love and visit it year after year.  I try to make a spiritual connection with the place. Once I went to Barcelona to see the architecture, but I couldn’t make a connection and I’ve never been back. I find that odd, because I should have loved the place.

PO: This is perhaps a predictable question, but still I must ask it: how does a woman in her early seventies come to write a novel full of drugs, sex and violence? Would you even be surprised to read a novel which deals with these topics which was written by one of your peers? Or should people not be surprised by this at all? Is this actually part of a larger issue that society has with hearing older voices, particularly female, whereby we assume that they would never speak of such topics?

PK: I started writing this piece when I was seventy-one or seventy-two, and it has gone through many revisions.  People were quite astonished when I began writing.  I was told that creativity diminishes starting around age fifty and that I didn’t have a chance at producing anything worthwhile. Although several friends were supportive of my efforts, others were shocked by the topics I chose to explore.

I know that Jean Rhys published a novel when she was seventy-six and it was quite the hit. She explored madness and sexual exploitation. Anna Kavan wrote the brutal and visionary Ice, a novel I admire, when she was in her sixties. 

PO: Including detailed recipes in a work of fiction is unusual for authors to do. Yet, as mentioned previously, Dirty Pictures has a wonderful use of detail for characters, props, smells and sound. Why did you decide to give such description to how Martel cooked those dinners in Amsterdam? Are they your own recipes or are they inspired by others?

PK: The procurement, preparation, and sharing of food has always been one of my great pleasures.  For me, a carefully prepared meal shared with family and friends is an expression of fellowship and celebration. In the novel Martel’s humanistic approach to food is presented in direct opposition to the Greylander Corporation’s soulless attempts at food control.

The roast chicken was from Julia Child, but I didn’t bother to look up the recipe. The rest is just basic stuff that I am familiar with.

PO: Dirty Pictures is your first novel. Do you have any unpublished material written before this novel?

PK: Even though I didn’t start writing until late in life, I’ve got tons of unpublished stuff: novellas, short stories, another novel, even screenplays. I was writing fast and didn’t have any outside distractions.  My themes are basically the same as those in Dirty Pictures. I like to think some of my work is humorous, even farcical.

PO: What are you working on now?

PK: I have one hundred fifty pages of a novel called Surfers.  It’s about a group of drug dealers who work out of Southern California in the 1960s. At the moment my personal situation is such that I can’t give the novel my full attention, but I would like to add some bits about the entertainment industry and its early attempts at mind control.  

 

Love and Death: What else is worth writing about?

February 22, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

image5Dearest Followers and Readers,

If you haven’t discovered Patricia Ketola yet, you are missing out on a truly original new voice.

If you are weary of pre-formatted fiction, you simply MUST read Dirty Pictures!

Patricia KETOLA’s flamboyant characters play a delightfully witty game where death and desire are intertwined. Rebellious, stylish and eccentric, like its author, Dirty Pictures weaves emotional depth and moments of pure farce to winning effect.

So, open your mind, read a sample below, and tell us what you think.

We are preparing an interview with Patricia. Questions to the author welcome through our Contact page!

Free climbing: excerpt from DIRTY PICTURES

February 8, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Patricia Ketola‘s novel Dirty Pictures is about artistic daredevilry. It is a cultural romp, peopled by musicians, painters and performance artists, and it conceptualizes a world in which the older artistic traditions manage to embrace the younger, more conceptual definitions of art. From stolen Rembrandts, to gypsy jazz, to free-climbing, Dirty Pictures celebrates all forms of self-expression and the will of the artist to, quite literally, take a leap into the unknown.

Below is an extract celebrating the exhilaration and the beauty of free-climbing.

climbing

***

“Willem was in a meeting when we got to the studio, and we decided to wait until he got out. We went in his office and Venessa sat down at his computer: ‘I found a video of the boys on YouTube, but I don’t know if we should show it to Willem.  He’s not too steady on his feet since the head injury, the shock might give him a stroke,’ she brought up a video:  ‘Take a look, Martel, what do you think?’
The video showed Dries and the Viper sneaking into a building site and climbing the skeleton of an unfinished skyscraper.  The building was tall, and when they got to the top they had a superb view that stretched all the way to Siberia. The boys worked in bare feet and without ropes or tools.  The climb had been jaw-droppingly difficult, but when they reached the summit they did not rest on their laurels, instead they began to crawl out on the exposed beams.  Acting in unison they lowered themselves off the beams and into the air.  At first they hung from the beams by both hands like trapeze artists, but then they took one hand off the beam and hung by one arm as their bodies dangled out into empty space. It was a frightening performance, and one that I did not think Willem would be able to tolerate.
‘Let’s just show him the picture,’ I said.
‘Pretty scary, isn’t it?’ Venessa smiled.  She seemed intensely proud of her cousin and his friend.
‘Yes, but it’s also frighteningly beautiful,’ I said.
‘This is real performance art!’ Venessa was enthusiastic. ‘I wish I could write my dissertation on this mode of expression, but those old frumps at school wouldn’t stand for it.’31ccf00800000578-3474598-this_shot_was_captured_looking_out_over_dubai_with_impressive_bu-a-133_1457016292257
Just then Willem walked in followed by his secretary, Irene.  He was giving dictation and she was trailing behind taking notes on an old-fashioned steno pad. Willem stopped dictating and noticed us: ‘Oh, hello you two, what brings you to my lair?’
‘We’ve got a big surprise for you. Wait till you see it!’ Venessa gushed.
‘I hope it’s not another Rembrandt.’ Willem smiled at Venessa and then turned to Irene: ‘Get that typed up and I’ll sign it this afternoon.’
After Irene left Venessa jumped up from the computer and ran to Willem with the print in her hand: ‘Look at this Uncle Willem.  Dries and the Viper have surfaced.  They’re living it up at a nightclub in Moscow.’
Willem took the print and studied it. ‘I wonder who made those T-shirts?’ he mused.  ‘They show a great sense of design and the portrait of Stalin is authentic 1930s propaganda art. It’s a nice piece of work, but I’m surprised the boys are running around with a picture of that tyrant on their chests. ’
‘They’re just kids, Willem. It probably wasn’t a political choice,’ I said.
‘I don’t care a damn about their fucking T-shirts,’ Venessa wailed, ‘look at them, Uncle Willem, they’re with girls, and they’re smiling.  Dries never used to smile.  He always kept a tight lip, and now it looks like he’s happy.’
‘I can see that, Venessa, and I am deeply touched.’

I looked at Venessa: ‘Maybe we should leave, darling.  I’m sure Willem is terribly busy.’
‘Yes, of course,’ she said.  We started for the door.
‘No, stick around. I want to talk to you about Dries,’ Willem said. He sat down at the computer.  The screen was black and he hit a key: ‘I’ll be with you in a minute; I just have to get some dates for Irene.’
Venessa’s face got very pale and she ran towards Willem’s desk, but it was too late. In her haste to show Willem the picture of Dries and the Viper she had forgotten to sign out of YouTube, and now Willem was sitting in front of a video that was labeled Dutch Daredevils Go Wild in Moscow.’

Photo: Max Polatov / Barcroft

‘You weren’t supposed to see that,’ I said.
‘Then why is it on my screen?’  He clicked on the video.
‘It’s up there because you didn’t turn off your computer when you went to the meeting.’  I was trying to deflect the blame from Venessa, but I knew what I said was pretty lame.
‘I’m sorry, Uncle Willem, I just wanted to show the video to Martel,’ Venessa chimed in.  She looked scared and sounded contrite.
Willem paid no attention to our excuses because he was caught up in the action on the screen. When the boys finally climbed back down to safety and were greeted by a gaggle of cops he relaxed:  ‘Is Hendrik around?  I want him to see this.’
‘I’ll call his office,’ I said.  I got Hendrik on the first ring and told him to meet us in the studio.  He said he’d be right down.

urban-climbing

Photo: Maxime Sirugue a.k.a siirvgve †

After I hung up my focus was back on Willem.  ‘What did you think of the climb?’ I asked.
‘I think they’re thrill-seeking morons, but aside from that it was an exciting piece of work.  I didn’t think those two little bastards had it in them.’ He paused for a moment and then said: ‘The cops took them away. Do you think they’re in jail?’
‘I doubt it,’ Venessa said, ‘the photo was posted after the climb. They seem to be celebrating their success.’
‘I hope you’re right because I don’t feel like engaging with a bunch of Moscow cops.  The bribes would be outrageous.’
The door opened and Hendrik walked in.  When he saw his family members gathered around the computer he gave us a wary look: ‘I hope you haven’t called me here to have a conference about my illness.’
Willem smiled, ‘No, Hendrik, it’s much more serious.  Take a look at this video and tell me what you think.’
The video played through again. It was the third time I’d seen it, but it remained eminently fascinating and I couldn’t help but hold my breath when the boys started dangling in space.
‘It’s fucking brilliant,’ Hendrik exclaimed.  ‘I don’t understand how those two puny little shits developed the skills to perform this kind of stunt.’‘They probably trained day and night,’ Venessa said. ‘Also, it helps to be in an environment where your hopes and dreams are encouraged by a peer group of like-minded people.’
‘What’s that supposed to mean?’ Willem asked. He was taking her comment as a slight on his parenting.
Venessa backtracked, ‘I just meant he was with people who could give him the skills and support to meet his goals.’31cce7e400000578-3474598-the_boys_seem_unafraid_at_being_suspended_on_a_thin_plank_above_-a-128_1457016278425
‘That’s enough,’ Hendrik commanded, ‘let’s not get off track here.  Willem, what are you going to do about this?  Frankly, I don’t like the idea of Dries and the Viper continuing in this suicidal activity.  They are going to fall to their deaths if they continue.’
‘You don’t know that, Daddy.’ Venessa was really hot on free climbing.  If she liked it so much, maybe she should take a trip to Moscow and get trained in the art.
‘You’re right, shatje, I don’t know, but you have to admit it does seem possible.  Think about it, we don’t want to lose Dries or the Viper.  We have to stop them.’
‘I’m going to Moscow and bring them back,’ Willem said.  He looked at Hendrik: ‘Will you come with me brother?’
‘Of course, Willem, you know I’ve got your back.  Although I do wonder if that’s the right approach.  These kids are flushed with triumph after their great ascent, and I doubt if they’d welcome two middle-aged relatives busting in and trying to bust their balloon.’
‘You may be right,’ Willem said.
‘Maybe Bobby could help,’ I said. ‘I know he has a lot of influence on Dries.  The kid adores him.’
Venessa had been sitting quietly at the corner of Willem’s desk.  She seemed to have taken her father’s words to heart.  I understood her enthusiasm for the art; you had to be a fool not to see the brilliance.  These kids were the ultimate in nihilism, and you could write a whole paper on their existential activities.  Venessa was a scholar and she was taking free climbing from a philosophical point of view, but now that Hendrik had forced her to see that two young lives might be dashed to pieces after a long, hard, fall, she was giving it a different take:
‘I’ll call Bobby,’ she said.”

 

Video Extract from Patricia Ketola’s Debut Novel, “Dirty Pictures”

October 27, 2016

BetimesBooksNow

Dirty Pictures is available to buy here. 

When New York art dealer Elizabeth Martel’s mother falls ill, she returns to her hometown in the Midwest. After her mother’s death she is seriously short of funds, and a friend suggests she take a job as art adviser to billionaire grain merchant, Preston Greylander.

When Greylander is killed in a mysterious murder-suicide, Martel is left in possession of a Rembrandt that needs restoration. She takes the painting to Amsterdam where she deposits it with the prestigious firm of Van der Saar Fine Arts.

The Van der Saar family has been in the art business since the seventeenth century and the current generation is represented by two brothers: Hendrik, suave and charismatic, is the perfect front man, while the deceptively low key Willem is a master of restoration. Hendrik and Martel enthusiastically resume an old love affair, and she discovers that the brothers’ personal lives are in chaos, and the family is haunted by guilt and swathed in deception.

As doubts arise about the authenticity of the Rembrandt, other actors arrive in Amsterdam determined to recover the picture.