Sunday, July 05, 2015

"A Twist Of Hate"

Its the hottest ticket in town, the Post-Impressionist exhibit at San Franciscos California Museum of Fine Art. And the centerpiece is a work by Paul Cézanne, loaned to the museum by the family of Mendel (Del) Miller. His mother, Hanna (Hani) Rosen Miller, is a patron of the CaMu and a docent there.

But all is not well. In A Twist Of Hate ($25.95 in hardcover from Five Star/Gale-Cengage Learning), novelist VR Barkowski offers a noir tale of betrayal, deceit, perversion, family conflict and mystery. The pace never lags and the truth will out.

Barkowski, who now lives outside Boston, writes me that she was born and raised in Chico, attended Chico High and Chico State (graduate classes). My parents were also Chico natives, and most of my family still resides in town.

Del, a security consultant and former SFPD homicide detective, is puzzled when he receives an urgent call from Hani to join her at CaMu. As he stands with her in front of the Cézanne, he learns her terrible discovery. What you see is a forgery, she says. That Cézanne is your legacy, your fathers legacy. The painting was with him when he was smuggled out of France during the war. Your grandfather sacrificed his life....

Hani is clear: The painting that left your fathers study was the Cézanne. The work was authenticated. I watched the canvas crated for delivery to the museum. This is not the same painting.

When the museum director winds up dead in his office after a risky act of sexual self-gratification, Del and his best friend Mike Gabretti (whose firm represents CaMu and who was once married to Dels girlfriend) enmesh themselves in an investigation paralleling the FBI, especially after a local news station reveals a confession by the museum director. If the FBI thinks the director committed suicide, Del and Mike arent so sure.

The two friends are also rivals, especially where women are involved, and Barkowski skillfully weaves together their tangled history with what they uncover about Dels heritage. Its gritty stuff, with raw emotion (and language) and, in context, a picture perfect ending. 

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