THE ARTSTARS by Anne Elliott; Indiana University Press, 2019; 171 pages, $18.  


Success for an artist — whether sculptor, painter, poet, novelist, performer or acrobat — usually means acceptance, recognition, even payment. Unfortunately, none of the artists in Anne Elliott’s short stories achieve success, quite the opposite.

“The Artstars” is Portland author Elliott’s debut book, a collection of nine short stories with a unique framework. The stories are all connected with at least one character or event appearing in one story showing up in the next, a thread that links the themes together in a most satisfying manner. A lot of thought and imagination went into this method, and Elliott pulls it off beautifully.

Elliott is a multi-talented artist herself — poet, sculptor, teacher and she plays the ukulele. She clearly is a dedicated advocate for the creative arts.

These stories are somber, sad and a bit depressing, portraying a variety of artist characters dragging the heavy baggage of personal and professional disappointment, a common symptom that proves “art is cheaper than therapy.”  In the first story, Maddie is an out-of-work photographer living in an unheated warehouse loft. Her prized possession (and inspiration) is a moth-eaten, full-sized stuffed horse.

Best is “Pink,” a powerful story about a woman who works in an office near the Twin Towers on 9/11. That day will be etched in her memory, especially one particular image that will haunt her forever. “Down the Slope” is an excellent tale of a novelist with a file cabinet full of rejection letters, feeling her life is pointless, but she still critiques other writers’ work at a fiction workshop.

Other stories include an artist who wants to work in an office but can’t type, a bitter poet with writer’s block, and a group of hedonist art students with big dreams but little talent. Being an artist is hard work.


THE K TEAM by David Rosenfelt; Minotaur, 2020; 304 pages, $27.99.

THE K TEAM by David Rosenfelt; Minotaur, 2020; 304 pages, $27.99.

As a former Hollywood movie producer for Tri-Star Pictures, David Rosenfelt knows a thing or two about how to tell an entertaining story. He also knows how to create a successful spin-off.

Damariscotta Lake author Rosenfelt has already penned 20 excellent Andy Carpenter mysteries, so it’s about time he cranked out a spin-off from that series. “The K Team” is the first in this new series featuring Andy’s private- investigator wife Laurie, his bodyguard Marcus and a retired K-9 cop named Corey Douglas. These three characters have appeared in previous Carpenter mysteries, and are now together as a three-person team of private investigators, the K Team (Andy is in here somewhere, too).

This first book in the new series has the K Team hired by New Jersey Judge Henry “Hatchet” Henderson, who is clearly being set up for blackmail and extortion. It’s obviously a frame-up, but who and why? Corey is the narrator as the K Team’s first paid case steers them to possible judicial misconduct, false leads, deliberate misdirection and some surprising murders. Worse, somebody is manipulating them and knows every move they make.

With a bit of Andy’s legal advice and a lot of help from a very talented computer hacker, the team uncovers a suspicious upcoming double homicide trial and a recent questionable financial crimes acquittal worth billions. When the K Team finally understands they are under surveillance, they take steps to shake up the bad guys not realizing just how ruthless and lethal the response will be.

Pay attention to every clue because Rosenfelt is a master of complex conspiracy mystery plotting and every clue he lays out has meaning. Watch for the red herrings, the double-cross and the creepy guy from Croatia. And don’t mess with Corey’s dog.

Bill Bushnell lives and writes in Harpswell.

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