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Anatomy of Fear: A Novel of Visual Suspense    by Jonathan Santlofer order for
Anatomy of Fear
by Jonathan Santlofer
Order:  USA  Can
William Morrow, 2007 (2007)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Jonathan Santlofer, author of The Killing Art, continues to offer readers intriguing art-related mysteries. This time, in Anatomy of Fear, he pits police sketch artist Nate Rodriguez against a vicious murderer who makes portraits of his victims (posed in the manner in which they will die) before he kills them.

What makes this novel particularly interesting is that its author, who is an artist himself, includes many well-executed drawings by both the forensic artist and the killer. Also adding depth to the story is the mystery of what happened in Nate's childhood that has affected his adult psyche so strongly, his multicultural - he has both Jewish and Puerto Rican grandmothers - family background, and a rich vein of mysticism that runs through the novel.

NYPD detective Terri Russo is in charge of the investigation into the first murder, where the perp left a drawing at the scene. Having previously worked successfully with Nate Rodriguez, she requests his help, even though there are no direct witnesses for him to interview. Highly intuitive, perhaps even with psychic abilities, Nate makes progress, and draws the killer's attention. At the same time, his abuela, who's also a santera ('a sort of neighborhood priestess'), warns him of growing personal danger.

When more deaths - and more drawings - make it clear that a serial killer is at work, the FBI set up a task force, which generally gets in the way and jumps to wrong conclusions. A conflicted romance begins to develop between Terri and Nate, and they uncover possible links to white supremacists. When murder strikes close to home, Terri must decide who to trust, and whether or not to put her career on the line, as Nate races to prevent the madman from striking his ultimate target.

I enjoyed Anatomy of Fear even more than Santlofer's previous The Killing Art - for its visual take on murder, twisting plot and sub-plots, and intriguing cultural context. I hope that it's only the first in a new artistic mystery series.

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