Paint it Red
By Kathleen R
Sep 1, 2007 - 6:30:00 AM

Young widow Vanessa Abbott struggles to support herself and her ten-year-old son as a realtor.   Two years before, her husband, a talented but brooding artist, disappeared without a trace except for his car, parked on a bridge.   Police are convinced that the artist accomplished suicide by jumping into the swift and murky Missouri River.   Vermilion red was the late Jim Abbott’s favorite color.   In his finished works, he’d featured this color of excitement.   He had a strange habit.   When he was frustrated with a work in progress, he’d destroy it with a zigzag of red paint.  


Vanessa’s ten-year-old son, Johnny, shows artistic talent like his father, but she worries over the pressure his paternal grandparents place on him to become famous.   Johnny does not display any of his father’s dark mental attributes.   Otherwise, Vanessa would never have consented to a black-tie gallery event to sell her late husband’s remaining paintings.   Andre, the owner of the Kansas City gallery, had discovered and encouraged Jim.   After Andre’s cut, Vanessa plans to place proceeds in Johnny’s college fund.


At the time of the celebrated gallery showing, Vanessa is ready to release Jim and stop trying to make sense of his demons.   She places Jim’s portrait into her dresser drawer.   Art critics and buyers describe his landscapes as genius, the way they leave the viewer thinking.   Jim’s artwork sells successfully.   That evening Vanessa meets handsome and robust Christian Connor, Jim’s exact opposite.   Christian, the owner of a construction company, is in attendance only because of a bet made with his friend, Andre, the owner of the gallery.   Normally, Christian would avoid the stuffy upper crust of society that reminds him of his parents.   He finds Vanessa attractive but wonders if she is a snob.   Nevertheless, he is in the market for a house and asks her to be his realtor.   Later that night at home, Vanessa tucks her son into bed.   When she sees Jim’s portrait on her bedside table, she’s spooked.


Jim is alive and watches as others cash in on his talent.   He will make them pay but will spare the son who reminds him of himself.   His wife is at the pinnacle of his hit list, but he will start at the bottom.   Jim’s art dealer, Andre, is found dead the next morning by a gallery assistant.   His bashed forehead reveals to forensics that he was beaten long past his death.   Broad strokes of red paint soak his shirt.    Two other victims, Jim’s art agent and artist friend, are found dead with the same ritual of paint.   The police hold back this information.   Vanessa begins to suffer crank phone calls when a muffled voice begs for help with churning water in the background.   This echo of Jim’s death leaves her horrified, but she suspects a jealous coworker and doesn’t go to the police.   After Vanessa and Christian begin seeing each other, he is attacked, but a security guard intervenes.   This incident jolts Vanessa into realizing how much he means to her, and they begin a more serious relationship.   Will Christian have what it takes to live up to her expectations as a stepparent?   Will Vanessa go to the police when more eerie events stun her?


PAINT IT RED is a gripping love story and a psychological suspense.   Author Carla Cassidy does an incredible job pacing the tantalizing romance between Vanessa and Christian, and my heart raced during their moments of terror.   I adored Christian’s turning moment as he witnesses Vanessa’s concern over her son.    I found Christian intensely likable as he eased into a natural friendship with Johnny.    Cassidy portrays Jim Abbot as a complex and evil person with clarity.   PAINT IT RED is a thriller that sucks the reader in until the last page.

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