Review: “Posing for Picasso,” Sam Stone

Pros: Keeps the reader guessing!
Cons: Slow start
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Sam Stone’s Posing for Picasso is a thriller/horror novel that absolutely delighted me. Painter Avgustin Juniper is accused of killing and mutilating his girlfriend and model, Annabel. A lawyer named Cassandra decides to take on his case pro bono, and even Detective Jake Chandler isn’t so sure Juniper is guilty. While the charges are dropped, the mutilations continue. And they’re definitely tied to Juniper in some mysterious way, because they all involve models he’s painted. Meanwhile gallery owner Joy Awen plans to make herself and Juniper some money off of his new notoriety by having a gallery showing of his work. Jake is getting involved with Lauren, who was his psychiatrist when he was dealing with the loss of his wife. Detective Gemma Sarasvati also seems to have something to do with what’s going on, and there’s a parallel thread exploring Picasso’s inspirational muses and some street women who went missing while he was doing his work.

The book seems relatively ordinary at first; the only strangeness is that somehow a person apparently got into Juniper’s apartment and killed Annabel without leaving any trace. As we go through the motions with lawyers and interrogations and gallery openings I wasn’t yet wholly drawn in. Once things start to pick up, however, and we get into the paranormal meat of the story, I became spellbound. There’s a mysterious creature ‘stealing’ parts of women in order to renew itself. And it isn’t the only unusual being out there. Eventually we end up with four major suspects, and the author keeps us guessing right up until the end. Even then she manages to slip some surprises into the narrative that I totally wasn’t expecting. I’m deliberately avoiding talking about the supernatural beings because they’re unveiled so nicely within the narrative that I don’t want to deny you that pleasure if you plan to read the book yourself.

The characters are fantastic and have a surprising amount of depth despite the fact that they each seem a little one-note when they’re first introduced. Juniper seems like the stereotype of the womanizing, charming artist, but he turns out to have a certain lovely naivete and trustingness to him. Cassandra seems like the typical hard-ass lawyer at first, but she comes to develop her own feelings for Juniper. Lauren and Jake make an interesting couple, and each of them is experimenting with getting back into the dating game. Gemma seems like the most straightforward, unfeeling character of them, but if anything she turns out to have some of the most depth.

This is a wonderful thriller, has some delightful horror to it, and has some fantastic paranormal world-building within its pages as well. If you enjoy any of the above, I think you’ll enjoy this book! (Note: explicit sex contained therein.)

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