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Anatomy of Fear: A Novel of Visual Suspenseby Jonathan Santlofer
Synopses & Reviews
Jonathan Santlofer uses his formidable skills, both as a writer and an artist, to create a unique thriller with a tantalizing concept: two men — one good, one evil — who think in pictures and whose drawings illustrate this gripping novel. Anatomy of Fear pits Santlofer's new hero, the talented and highly successful police sketch artist Nate Rodriguez, against a vicious murderer who makes portraits of his victims before he kills them.
Haunted by the death of his father, an NYPD undercover narc, Nate has avoided the action and buried his emotions behind his pads and pencils for years. But that's all about to change. Brought onto the case to draw the face of a man no one has lived to see, Nate is pulled into the dark and twisted mind of a killer. As the portrait comes to Nate in bits and pieces — a face taking shape in his mind and on the page — the killer uses his own talents to shift the focus of the investigation in a startling and unexpected way. Each drawing moves the men ever closer to each other in a terrifying game of cat and mouse with deadly consequences.
Jonathan Santlofer has crafted a brilliant and original suspense novel that mixes prose and pictures, love and hate, cold reality and mysticism, and finally redemption. Anatomy of Fear will have readers on the edge of their seats from the first page — and first picture — to the riveting climax.
"Jonathan Santlofer's fourth novel serves up numerous elements you know well if you read many thrillers. The NYPD is on the trail of a serial killer. He turns out to be a psychopath with ties to neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups. The NYPD is battling arrogant FBI agents who want to take over the case. We're rooting for a feisty, sexy woman detective who confronts endless sexism from male colleagues.... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) Been there, done that. But what makes 'Anatomy of Fear' distinctive is that Santlofer, a well-known artist before he turned to fiction, has illustrated the book with well over a hundred drawings that add an intriguing new dimension to his story. The pencil sketches, some with touches of blood red, show victims, suspects, crime scenes and clues. Some no larger than a postage stamp, others filling an entire page, these drawings illustrate the novel and become central to it, because both its hero and its villain are themselves artists caught up in a deadly duel. The hero, Nate Rodriguez, son of a Puerto Rican police officer and a Jewish social worker, is glimpsed as a wild youth who, at age 12 or so, was getting high on both booze and pot. His exploits led to his father's death, for which he still feels agonizing guilt. He tried being a cop, but he couldn't stomach life on the street, so he used his artistic skills to become a police sketch artist, one of the best in America. Early in the book we see him work with a rape victim to produce a drawing of her attacker that soon leads to an arrest. The artist is a student of faces, skilled at reading 'fleeting micro-expressions.' He can spot 'a big smile, all lips, no eye muscles, totally fake.' Words lie, he says; faces do not. Homicide detective Terri Russo recruits Rodriguez because two men have been murdered on the street and the killer left drawings of the victims pinned to their bodies. She wants to know if the same person drew both pictures, and Rodriguez assures her that he did. He joins her team, and more murders follow. We learn that Rodriguez has psychic powers — he calls them brain flashes — that enable him to draw people and events he has never seen: 'I couldn't stop the pictures in my head — a by-product of a life spent inventing them.' Some plot twists are predictable. The good-looking Puerto Rican Jewish sketch artist and the sexy Italian American detective soon begin a romance that leads to her memorable declaration, 'I just don't want to spend six months on some goon who is never going to commit.' The killer learns about Rodriguez and begins stalking him — and those lunkheads at the FBI suspect that Rodriguez may in fact be the killer. In his tribulations, he's supported by his Puerto Rican grandmother, who practices a form of voodoo when she thinks he's threatened by evil spirits. At one point, to exorcise evil, she breaks an egg into a pitcher of water and pours it over his torso, then crushes some gladioluses and rubs them onto his chest. 'I shivered, a kind of electric energy coursing through my body,' he says of this messy process, which readers are not advised to try at home. The more dangerous evil spirits may be the NYPD and FBI officials who — in this novel and countless others — are quick to pin the rap on anyone who is conveniently at hand. At one point, two FBI agents, both women, eye Rodriguez eagerly: '"I found Rodriguez to be an amiable, charming guy. But I don't have to tell you that fits a whole category of sociopaths." '"Bundy, for one." '"You ever read the transcripts of Albert DeSalvo, the Boston Strangler?"' The moral is that if you ever find a dead body, run for your life. Fortunately, Rodriguez eludes these zealots, which may be more easily done in books than in reality, and he will no doubt return to sketch again. 'Anatomy of Fear' is an amiable novel. If some of its elements are familiar, the author's drawings and his insights into an artist's mind are refreshingly new, and he keeps things moving at a jaunty clip. --0--0--0-- Speaking of cops, a year ago I praised the novel '18 Seconds,' by retired D.C. police lieutenant George D. Shuman. It's been nominated as one of the best first novels of 2006 by the International Thriller Writers. Washingtonian Daniel Silva's latest Gabriel Allon novel, 'The Messenger,' is among the best-novel nominees. The winners will be announced at ITW's ThrillerFest in New York in July." Reviewed by Carolyn See, who can be reached at www.carolynsee.comRachel Hartigan Shea, a contributing editor of The Washington Post Book WorldAdrian McKinty, author of seven novels, including his most recent thriller, 'The Bloomsday Dead'Richard D. Kahlenberg, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and author of forthcoming 'Tough Liberal: Albert Shanker and the Battles Over Schools, Unions, Race and Democracy'Patrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Jonathan Santlofer's new novel promises a treatise on terror, but the larger theme gets lost in his multifaceted story line....And the flow is also interrupted by his inconsistent dialogue." Philadelphia Inquirer
"Santlofer, also an artist, presents some 100 original sketches throughout the text that serve as an important part of the narrative for both Rodriguez and the killer. A fine series start." Library Journal
Featuring provocative sketches throughout, this novel of visual suspense offers a truly radical way of storytelling that is sure to enthrall thriller fans.
A breathtakingly original novel of suspense, this thriller mixes prose and pictures to create a story that burns its way into the brain and brilliantly revitalizes the crime fiction genre.
Nate Rodriguez is a police sketch artist for the NYPD, and his success rate is high, with one out of three of his drawings leading to an arrest. But when he is faced with an unusually talented killer, he realizes that he may have met his match. For this killer is a man very much like himself–a man who sees and thinks in pictures. A killer who leaves drawings at the crime scenes depicting his murders in chilling, gory–and prescient–detail.
As Nate's portraits become more and more accurate images of the madman–the killer finds a way to steal Nate's portraits and then imitate Nate's own hand. The conflicting evidence leads the police to suspect that Nate himself could be the killer and pushes Nate into a frightening cat and mouse chase for his quarry. Life and death, art and artifice have never been so vividly bound together.
Jonathan Santlofer pushes the boundaries of the thriller to new heights with this masterful blend of art and suspense. With sequential sketches that alternate throughout the text–first the killer's, then Nate's–Santlofer teases us with irresistible clues and psychological details delivered in a highly original way.
About the Author
Jonathan Santlofer is a highly respected artist whose work has been written about and reviewed in the New York Times, Art in America, Artforum, and Arts and appears in many public, private, and corporate collections such as Chase Manhattan Bank and the Art Institute of Chicago. He serves on the board of Yaddo, one of the oldest artist communities in the country. Santlofer lives and works in New York City. This is his fourth novel.
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