Title: A Portrait of Andrew
Author: JP Bowie
Cover Artist: Deana C. Jamroz
Publisher: MLR Press
Buy Link Amazon Buy Page
Genre: Contemporary Murder Mystery/Suspense/Paranormal-lite
Length: Novel (257 PDF pages)
Rating: 4.25 stars out of 5
A Guest Review by Aunt Lynn
One Sentence Review: Book three in the Portrait series is as true to form as the others.
A holly jolly Christmas with friends is all artist Peter Brandon and his private investigator partner Jeff Stevens expect when they visit their buddies, Andrew and David, in New York City. All that changes when a party guest ends up murdered and Andrew is considered to be the prime suspect.
The situation worsens when the murdered man’s wife accuses Andrew of trying to persuade her husband to have a gay affair with him. It’s up to Jeff and a sympathetic NYPD detective, Nick Fallon, to try to clear Andrew’s name. They are, at times, aided and then hindered by Peter’s erratic psychic abilities — or disabilities, as he calls them — that eventually lead them to a powerful and unexpected showdown when the real killer is exposed.
Along the way, new friendships are made and tested — and one is irrevocably destroyed by lies and denial. This is another fast-paced page turner from J.P. Bowie that will keep you guessing all the way to the end — and perhaps, beyond…
A Portrait of Andrew is the third installment in JP Bowie’s five-book Portrait series (the first books are reviewed here), which are prequels to his Nick Fallon Investigations series (reviewed here), and features artist/psychic Peter and his PI boyfriend, Jeff. While I think that the series should be read in order to get maximum enjoyment and understanding, this book could be read as a standalone. Originally self-published in 2003, APoA has been re-edited and re-released by MLR.
The story, set a year and some after the end of the previous book, opens with a car accident, the driver leaving a man whom she greatly dislikes and who is a threat to her happiness in the vehicle to die, seemingly a perfect way to fix her problems. Jumping ahead several months, we next find Peter and Jeff getting ready to visit their friends Andrew and David in New York for the Christmas holiday. Andrew, who left pretty much everything behind to follow David cross-country from California when David was given a transfer and promotion, is quite unhappy and really looking forward to this two-week visit with his best friends. The only person Andrew has become close to in New York is Morgan, one of his physical therapy clients, a woman who is in an unhappy, unhealthy marriage with a much younger man with not-so-secret secrets. During the visit there is a murder, and between circumstances, pointing fingers and bigotry, Andrew is the main suspect. Investigating the murder is NYPD detective Nick Fallon, who asks Jeff to help him solve the murder when his own partner is taken off the case. In the course of trying to prove Andrew’s innocence, Nick becomes chummy with the gang and meets a cute paramedic along the way as well, and Peter gets to use the “feelings” he gets to help the situation.
Bowie has once again given us a solid, engaging tale that is typical of his style of writing. As is similar with other books in this series, it is told in a shifting third person omniscient POV and there are multiple facets to the plot. In this installment, we have the four friends getting together after a period of time apart, Andrew’s unhappiness living in New York, the situation with Morgan and her husband, the murder and investigation, and the introduction of Nick and his meeting Eric. As is also usual, everything was neatly wrapped up by the last page. Likewise, we are privy to the some of the baddies’ thoughts, and while I had suspicion over part of the whodunit, I didn’t know the full situation until it was all revealed.
One of the things I really liked about this story is that it answered some of the questions I had as I read the Nick Fallon Investigations books. In my review of A Deadly Game, I had wanted backstory and history about Nick, how he met Eric, his now partner, and how he and Jeff became PIs. The first two questions are addressed here.
It was not without its issues for me, though:
While Bowie writes some of the most deliciously despicable characters, the majority of the time they only have one dimension — bad — and it’s no different here. They always get what they deserve in the end, the goodies triumphing over the baddies in often spectacular fashion, but I am finding that I prefer my villains to have a little more depth.
Besides the fact that I didn’t like Morgan — and I don’t think I was supposed to — I found her character to be inconsistent. After two reads, I still don’t get her. I’m not sure if she is truly mentally unbalanced or if she was just written poorly. Her feelings about Andrew and what she is doing/has done are all over the map, and even though we are in her head, I did not understand the changes in her thoughts and behavior.
Lastly, at times you need to suspend your disbelief just a bit when you read these stories. For example, the pace at which Nick Fallon becomes friendly and on a first-name basis with Andrew, David, Peter and Jeff was, in my opinion, a little rushed, especially since he has made their acquaintance in a professional manner. Also, there are several coincidences, such as a murder victim that is tied to the one Nick (and Jeff) are investigating who is known to the new man in Nick’s life, that felt a bit contrived to me.
Regardless of my niggles, fans of the author, the Portrait series and those who have read the Nick Fallon books will not want to miss A Portrait of Andrew.
If MLR continues on with re-releasing this series, A Self-Portrait, book four, will be reviewed next.