The Artist Vanishes
by Terry Westby-Nunn
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Pub Date 01 Apr 2021 | Archive Date 28 Feb 2022
A conceptual art project goes dangerously wrong...
"A very cleverly told literary mystery thriller, one of the best I've read."
Paige Nick, Founder of The Good Book Appreciation Society.
Where is Sophie?
Infamous Cape Town artist Sophie Tugiers is missing, and has been for several years. Her mysterious disappearance caused a brief ripple before dissolving into a distant media memory. Sophie’s controversial art alienated many people: those who didn’t consider her a sell-out thought her last exhibition was sadistic – after all, one of her experimental participants committed suicide.
James Dempster is a jaded filmmaker with a whiskey problem. Following his acrimonious divorce, he needs a project to relaunch his stalled career. When he discovers he’s living in a flat the missing Sophie once rented, he is drawn into her sinister tale.
What really happened to Sophie? What are her friends and enemies hiding? After James’s flat is ransacked and his research stolen, he realises unearthing the truth could lead not to his redemption but to his demise.
The Artist Vanishes explores ambition and success, guilt and responsibility, the ethics around animal research, and art’s lasting impact on those it touches.
"Her capacity for nuance on tough questions is the brilliant gift of this well-paced novel, filled with crooked paths, tension and dark-alley reveals. There is very little of the good versus the bad or the right versus the wrong. Be it the internet, the pharmaceutical industry, activism, or even friendship, issues are cloudy, complex, and, thankfully, interesting."
Tiah Beautement, Sunday Times
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 32 members
When I picked up "The Artist Vanishes", my plan was to read the first few sentences and then add it to the bottom of my virtual stack. Instead I knew I had just discovered a treasure in this literary mystery thriller!
FIRST SENTENCE: "The wind blew last night, taking with it dead things, forgotten things, lost things."
THEN: Capetown artist Sophie Tugiers disappeared after one of her controversial installations, Bloodbath, was linked to a participant's brutal suicide.
NOW: Several years later James Dempster, a film maker in a creative and alcoholic slump, discovers his apartment was once Sophie's home. His curiosity is aroused. What happened to Sophie? James' daughter encourages him to do some research hoping a new project will restart his life and career.
WHAT I THOUGHT: After that first sentence, I immediately started reading. The plot alone was interesting but the creation of the world of the book was even more fascinating. It's impressive how the author managed to touch on so many volatile issues without patronizing or preaching to the reader while writing about big pharmaceutical companies and animal testing, the responsibility of artists and how they are changed by fame and money, and the meaning of friendship.
Characters are distinctly drawn and memorable. The pacing moves the story along with surprises and rewards. It's a delight to read writing this beautiful.
Terry Westby-Nunn is also the author of "The Sea of Wise Insects".
BOTTOM LINE: This is an amazing book. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.
DISCLAIMER: Thank you to NetGalley / Penguin Books for the advance copy in exchange for an honest review.
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