Title: Death of a Painter
Author: Matthew Ross
Publisher: Red Dog Press
Date of Publication: April 2020
IN THE BUILDING GAME TIME IS MONEY AND MONEY IS EVERYTHING. UNFORTUNATELY FOR MARK POYNTER, HE’S RUN OUT OF MONEY AND HE’S FAST RUNNING OUT OF TIME.
When Mark Poynter discovers a murder on his worksite all of his financial problems suddenly seem a lot closer to home: was this a warning his debts are overdue?
Suspected of being the killer and worried at being the intended victim, the murder only makes Mark’s money problems worse, leading him to turn to the local villain, Hamlet, who has his own unique repayment plan in mind for Mark.
When two more deaths plunge him even further into debt, Mark finds himself faced with a choice – help the police and clear his name or help the villain and clear his debt.
Set in the Medway Towns on the grey margins of criminality, where no job’s too big, no dodge’s too small …
Death Of A Painter is the first in a new series of darkly comic crime fiction novels featuring the beleaguered builder Mark Poynter, aided and hindered in equal measure by his trusted crew of slackers, idlers and gossips, and the lengths they go to just to earn a living.
No job is safe, quiet, and above board. This is one of the lessons learned during my reading of Death of a Painter. The title mislead me. I first thought a renowned painter (of canvas, not walls!) would be found dead and that detectives would put their greasy fingers everywhere to find the meaning and motives behind the tragedy. Then I read the blurb and decided that what Matthew Ross had in mind was much more exciting. Hence my first line. You think painting walls and doing lovely jobs to change colors in people’s home would be easy and worry-free, right? Hahahahahaha!
Although not naïve, our main protagonist, Mark, discovers that there is more to the man who was found dead than meets the tip of the brush! Indeed, Dead Tommy was doing some work for Mark, and this sudden… deadly bump hits too close to home for Mark. Indeed, our handyman is running out of cash, sharks are waiting to eat his head if he doesn’t pay back, he must chase his clients like goldfish run after that tiny food we give them to get his money. In a nutshell, he is swimming in a dangerous pool. Is that pool so muddy that someone would actually try to kill him (and get the wrong man, duh!) to give him a lesson?
Don’t judge Mark too quickly. He is a down-to-earth, fascinating, and resourceful character. His heart is at the right place, even when he himself is not! When he decided to take matters into his hand about his friend Tommy’s death, willing to ensure the deceased’s family gets what they need, I felt my heart swell and I knew I’d been won over.
Quick to think doesn’t equal clever thinking, so Mark ends up knocking on the town’s bad guy’s door for financial help. Nothing comes free with those guys, and as much as I wanted to take Mark by the hand and take him far away, I had to admit his reasons were good and … well, when the angels stop answering, go check the devil’s lair.
I’ve talked a lot about money so far. We know it is the heart of the matter. All the time. That, and passion. And greediness. And… Okay you get the drill. But don’t you go thinking Death of a Painter is a Cluedo in which the end doesn’t reveal who killed who but who’s got the key to the bank. Matthew Ross has created a fantastic portrait of fuller-than-life protagonists for whom it is easy to fall. They all have their flaws – Mark and his (bad) luck, Uncle Bern… just being himself, Disco and his drinking. But what is fantastic in this novel is the opportunity to look beyond those people’s faces. The novel then turns into a poignant storm of lives colliding, life messing around, and fate being a pain. From laughter to tears, you get swept away by an engaging race against time and baddies with a man who has no idea what he is doing and puts himself at the center of a much bigger picture than he ever imagined!
The plot is winding, filled with holes, and totally crazy (in a great way!). I jumped on hints, got lost a hundred times, tried to solve the puzzle with Mark only to discover we are not handled all the pieces! That is both mean and genius. It kept the tension building until a finale that took me by surprise. But to be honest, many elements in this book are a total surprise.
I see Death of a Painter described as darkly comic, and I racked my brain but I can’t think of a better way to describe it. I chuckled, I felt the words tug at my heartstrings, I rolled my eyes, wondering how deep the hole in which Mark had found himself was.
Death of a Painter is intelligent, funny when it should be, hilarious when it shouldn’t be, exquisitely easy to read, and it delivers on its promise of a wonderful read.
Thank you to the publisher for inviting me to be part of this fun blog tour and for providing me with a copy of the novel. This review is my unbiased opinion.
Matthew Ross was born and raised in the Medway Towns, England. He still lives in Kent with his Kiwi wife, his children and a very old cat.
He was immersed in the building industry from a very early age helping out on his father’s sites during school holidays before launching into his own career at 17. He’s worked on projects ranging from the smallest domestic repair to £billion+ infrastructure, and probably everything in between.
A lifelong comedy nerd, he ticked off a bucket-list ambition and tried his hand at stand-up comedy. Whilst being an experience probably best forgotten (for both him and audiences alike) it ignited a love for writing, leading to various commissions including for material broadcast on BBC Radio 4 comedy shows.
Matthew moved into the longer format of novel writing after graduating from the Faber Academy in London in 2017.
‘Death Of A Painter’ is his first novel and the first in a planned series of stories featuring Mark Poynter and his associates. Matthew enjoys reading all manner of books – especially crime and mystery; 80s music; and travelling and can’t wait for the next trip to New Zealand to spend time with family and friends.