Monday, September 22, 2008

The Ruffian on the Stair-Gary Newman

The Ruffian on the Stair
Gary Newman
Soho, Oct 2008, $25.00
ISBN 9781569475430

Sebastian “Seb” Rolveden lives in a lighthouse on the Essex coast where he hopes the isolation will enable him to write about his recent adventures. He muses about his legendary grandfather who he is named after and who just died.

Seb inherited a notebook from the late elder Seb that chronicles an apparent murder in 1899 London. Seb the senior an artist turned preacher explained he woke up one morning with a hangover, naked and with no memory of the night before. Lying dead next to him was Anglo-Swedish impressionist painter Julian Rawbeck. Seb the junior feels obsessed to know more about the event and his grandfather. With his girlfriend Leah, they begin to track down the mysterious past of Seb senior starting with searching for Rawbeck’s renowned missing dark masterpiece "THE RUFFIAN ON THE STAIR". The more he digs into Rawbeck the more he learns about his grandfather who seemingly was a devoted member of the artist’s retinue. As Seb the younger and Leah hop to Jersey and Normandy, they find evidence that allegedly points towards his grandfather as the killer of the artist.

This is a cerebral mystery starring a young man who needs to learn more about his roots. The story line is at its best when Seb the junior struggles with his inquiry while expanding his focus onto Rawbeck. The two Seb’s are fascinating characters as each is obsessed with the truth. Although the retinue of support players from the art world adds too much complexity to an already erudite amateur sleuth, readers will enjoy this fine thriller.

Harriet Klausner