Murray Whelan is the political advisor to the newly appointed minister of culture, Angelo (“Tell me, Murray, what are the Arts?”) Agnelli, and he’s hanging on to his job by his toenails. On his first day, the disgruntled young artist Marcus Taylor is found dead, drowned in the ornamental moat outside the National Gallery. The police rule it a suicide, or perhaps an accident, but Murray is not so sure. Besides, this ugly incident occurred on Agnelli’s watch, so the heat is on. A born detective despite himself, Murray digs, and the deeper he goes, the more puzzling the mystery becomes. Who is this other painter, Victor Szabo, also dead, unknown in his lifetime and now the darling of the art world, with works fetching crazy prices—funded in part by the government? And what about suave businessman and art maven Lloyd Eastlake, who is whispering financial sweet nothings in Angelo Agnelli’s ear?
A first-rate, funny, tightly plotted thriller with the verve of Get Shorty and Striptease, The Brush-Off brings us a Down Under we hardly knew: with political scamming and art fraud, ruthless culture vultures, silky bureaucrats, and scheming self-made millionaires—all brought together by a streetwise, sharp-tongued political advisor who has a knack for stumbling onto murder. His crash course in culture teaches him one thing for certain: when you dabble with death, there’s nothing abstract about a loaded gun.
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