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Still Lives by Maria Hummel

Hey fellow word nerds!

As I am sure some of you saw from my previous post (or didn’t, who am I kidding) this is my first formal book review for my blog. So, please bear with me while I get into the groove.

I read this book in a matter of days; I received it on a Saturday and finished it on a Monday and while I really enjoyed the book itself it has a lot to process, so I will be rating it based on couple criteria that I base my Goodreads reviews on. I will say, though, for a first review, I sure picked a doozy.

If you don’t want to wait around and read the full length description (and spoilers) read the bold print and don’t go any lower. Without any further ado, here is my 30 second review:

Still Lives is a story within a story – your usual “crime novel”, this time having an existential crisis. Starring a would-be journalist who has failed at almost everything she has done – relationships, career, etc – the protagonist takes us on a journey of self-discovery, while simultaneously solving the disappearance of a brilliant art genius. Much like the graphic, intersecting cover image, the crime intersects with real life in a believable way; murder and art are one – an allegory for the still, dead  lives that one can find themselves in after a failure. 

SPOILERS MAY BE BELOW:

This book started out somewhat cold. The protagonist, an art museum employee by the name of Maggie, seems a little bitter and distant, and to my taste unlikeable. It seems her distaste of her ex, Greg, and her obvious lack of zeal for life takes away from the story. In fact, all of her relationships seem a little out of place. Perhaps that was meant to add to the story, but the overall affect of the characters detracts from the book.

However, Maggie’s emotional state through out the book is easy to read, and skillfully portrayed. It is with no difficulty that one can identify Maggie’s initial dislike and distaste of Kim Lord, the avant-garde artist who goes missing. It is quite obvious that Maggie really could care less, especially at the beginning. As Maggie gets more invested, the reader does to. The fear is practically tangible when Maggie’s apartment gets broken into.

The best part of the novel, however, comes from the originality of the plot. I have read plenty of crime novels in my time and usually about midway through the book, I can name the perpetrator of the crime. In the case of Still Lives, I could not even quite wrap my head around it, even when Maggie was absolutely sure of the perpetrator. She had come into so many dead ends, so many false leads, that I was sure she had got it wrong once again.

Furthermore, the murder itself is an allegory – much like Maggie almost gets murdered, her life ripped away, so does her private life. When Ray, the PI, asks her to lie he saves her from a death a second time. There is also the idea that Maggie’s life is like one of Kim Lord’s paintings’ subject’s, frozen in time by some known or unknown force. This allegory in itself makes this book worth a read.

In other words, if you like or don’t like mystery and crime novels, this book is worth a read simply to watch Maggie discover herself, and understand that she is running from something, all while being nothing more than a still life.

Leave me a comment, and let me know if you agree! Also, if you have any suggestions for other books to review, let me know!

Ciao, and happy reading!

 

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