The Case of the Purloined Painting Book Review

The Case of the Purloined Painting Book Review

Title: The Case of the Purloined Painting – A Sean Sean Mystery
Author: Carl Brookins
Published: 2013, North Star Press
No. of Pages: 166
Cover Price: $14.95 US

Another adventure in Carl Brookins’ Sean Sean series, The Case of the Purloined Painting finds Sean Sean, a private detective, hired to investigate two seemingly unrelated cases. Robert Gehrz meets with Sean in his office and hires him to find a woman he has been dating, but who no longer returns his calls. He wants Sean to find out why she has quit calling and if she wants to continue the relationship. The same day, Sean is visited by a mysterious woman, who says her name is Ann, or Anne – she didn’t spell it - who claims she saw two men shove an elderly man off a bridge. She also showed him a newspaper article from the Star Tribune (the story takes place in Minneapolis) reporting that the body of Manfred Gottlieb was found floating in the river. Ann or Anne, as she is referred to throughout the novel, wants Sean to report the incident and the details to the police because she doesn’t want to get involved.

As the story progresses, Sean uncovers clues that suggest the two cases are related, and also gets involved in trying to ascertain the whereabouts of a painting that was stolen during WWII. As Sean becomes closer to the truth, he becomes a target for murder, and what he originally thought were both a mundane missing person case and a simple “report to police case” turn out to be much bigger and quite dangerous.

Brookins’ writing style is very unique; the story is told in first person, and the narration is sort of reminiscent of Sgt. Joe Friday and the old Dragnet television series with a bit of Al Capone thrown in. Sean is not your typical detective hero; while most are tall, dark, handsome, and sexy, Sean is only 5’2”, but is comfortable enough in his skin that it doesn’t bother him that his live-in long-time companion, Catherine, towers a full foot above him and is gorgeous. Catherine helps Sean on his cases, and, while she is a successful massage school owner, seems to be the brains behind Sean’s success in solving his cases. There is a lot of understated, dry humor in this novel, i.e., calling his woman client “Ann or Anne” throughout the novel, which definitely adds to the enjoyment.

While the book is succinct and quite well-written, there is a blatant inconsistency that seems to jump out: On page 9 while Sean is discussing the case of the murder on the bridge with Ann or Anne, he says, “And you say this incident on the bridge happened three days ago.” On the next page, he says to her, “Something compelled you to come to me now, a couple of weeks after this incident… There are also several minor grammatical and punctuation errors, that surely would have been caught by a professional editor (i.e., page 9 he asks the question in the sentence above, but uses a period rather than a question mark, and says on page 84, “All of the contents [plural] that’s[singular]left…

Brookins’ characters seem almost surreal, rather than being like regular people. It is unknown whether this is by design and part of the writer’s unique style, or because the characterizations are underdeveloped due to a failure on the part of the author. However, albeit the minor errors, the uniqueness of the characters and the unanticipated storyline will keep most suspense/thriller readers interested through the end. The book has no graphic violence or sex, so it can be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Special thanks to PJ Nunn of Breakthrough Promotions for supplying a review copy of this book.

This book may be purchased at Amazon: The Case of the Purloined Painting - Paperback

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