Title: Body Art
Author: Jordan Castillo Price
Publisher: JCP Books
Pages/Run Time: 108 Pages/ 3 Hours and 24 Minutes
At a Glance: A little murder and another stellar performance by Gomez Pugh make perfect companions of this e- and audiobook.
Reviewed By: Lisa
Blurb: Does everyone have a certain “type” they end up with…whether they want to or not? If Ray Carlucci’s ex is anything to go by, Ray likes his men gorgeous, rebellious, and chock-full of issues. But now that Ray is single again, he has a shot at a fresh start—a very fresh start, since his tattoo shop was gutted by repo men and he can fit all his belongings in the trunk of a taxi.
Ray’s shiny new chauffeur’s license lands him a job as a driver for an elderly couple on Red Wing Island. It’s a cold fall, and since the Michigan island is the summer home to snowbirds who fly south for the winter, it’s practically deserted—save for Ray’s new household and a sculptor named Anton Kopec, who works day and night twisting brambles and twine into the distorted shapes of macabre creatures. Compelling, bizarre, and somewhat disturbing…not just the sculptures, but the artist, too. Ray has a feeling Anton is just his “type.”
Despite their scorching chemistry, when a dead body is unearthed by some workers and a freak ice storm traps them all on the island, Ray can’t say for certain that his new flame isn’t capable of murder.
Review: One of the things I love about Jordan Castillo Price’s work is that you never quite know what you’re going to get between the covers of her books. Sure, you have the blurb, but that’s just the bait to lure you in. What hooks me, without fail, every time, is her characters. Anton Kopec embodies the flawed men this author makes us fall for. Ray Carlucci embodies the flawed men this author makes us relate to. Sometimes her characters are challenged by a psychological affliction, and sometimes they’re just regular guys who get kicked in the teeth when it’s not quite bad enough that life already has their privates twisted firmly in a vice.
This short novel, Body Art, is billed as a thriller, and that it is. The setting evolves with the change of seasons on a Michigan island, just as summer has turned to autumn, and autumn is quickly swept aside by the unforgiving nature of a winter ice storm, which adds a terrible beauty to the island’s isolation and the eerie desolation of a dark forest thick with the unknown.
When immolated animals begin showing up on Ray’s doorstep, there is a clear and present bizarreness that sneaks up on readers—at first seeming innocuous enough as we’re empathizing with Ray’s “every man” troubles, but at the same time, we also know nothing good is bound to happen with this sort of foreshadowing. The atmosphere and anticipation in this novella is built slowly and begins to escalate not long after Ray meets fellow island resident Anton in the woods one night. Their initial meeting only adds to the strange and unusual, as Anton works exhaustively at being little more than enigmatic—something that just so happens to draw Ray to the beautiful, eccentric artist like steel to a magnet.
Anton’s behavior is symptomatic of his psychological chemistry, at once agitated, then almost childlike in the intensity of his enthusiasm, much more than mere artistic temperament allows for. Ray’s reactions to Anton are symptomatic of an arsebite of an ex-boyfriend, the loss of his tattoo shop, and his undeniable attraction to men who may not necessarily be good for him. Everything in this story comes to a head, however, when a dead body is discovered buried beneath his new employers’ lawn, the body of a man who was known to be a friend of the one man whose moods and behavior are known to be erratic at best. The mystery unfolds under a cloud of suspicion, where we readers are left to wonder whether or not the identity of a killer might be locked inside the Alzheimer’s-riddled mind of an old man.
Jealousy and greed go hand-in-hand with murder in Body Art, and JCP gives plausible enough reason to substantiate a killer’s motives in a story that had just enough twists to keep me guessing all the way up to the Big Reveal. As a standalone novella, we get just enough depth to the storyline and characterizations, not as much as I always appreciate in this author’s work, but more than enough for those times I love a little instant-gratification in a shorter novel. Not to mention when I want some chills and a good mystery; this book fit those needs perfectly.
I read this e-book first, then I let Gomez Pugh read it to me a second time because I may or may not be addicted to his voice—it’s a close call. Not only that, but I wanted to test Pugh’s range on yet another Jordan Castillo Price offering. Unsurprisingly he delivers a great performance, emoting to perfection each nuance of Anton’s high-tension-wire personality, then delivering on the next breath Ray’s regular Joe, good guy patience and kindness. From the elderly couple, who are Ray’s employers, to the rest of the staff left on the island, to the least significant bit-part role player, Pugh seems incapable of turning in anything resembling a mediocre or lackluster narration. In fact, if hard pressed, I might even say his delivery elevates Body Art a notch simply because of his smooth and sexy voice.
You can buy Body Art here: