Tim's Reviews > Blindspot

Blindspot by Jane Kamensky
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Sep 20, 11

Read in September, 2011

Henry Fielding has been channeled in this murder mystery and titillating transvestite tale that is rife with political pull and painting practices, and stacked with sniggering slang. The authors have used Fielding’s writing technique he introduced in Tom Jones, wherein the narrator addresses the audience directly while presenting, explaining, or mollifying the sensitive reader to certain material. They have expanded his technique employed in Joseph Andrews (or Shamela for that matter) in which penned letters or handbill texts and news items are blended with the narrative to enrich or to advance the plot.

Here, the narrator is Stewart Jameson, a portrait painter who is prone to punning, rants, and scheming. He has escaped to Boston from London to avoid the debt incurred when he sought to free a slave-worthy friend from bondage. The inclusion of his friend, Ignatius Alexander, provides the authors license to explore the slavery issues of 18th Century Massachusetts as well as to offer a bit of technical CSI pioneering.

Jameson encounters and contracts the crossing-dressing Fanny Weston, who eventually reveals herself as Francis Easton, the runaway daughter of a wealthy merchant and politico. She pens the intermittent letters to a childhood chum, all the while functioning as an artist’s apprentice. Their efforts in oils provide the authors a larger palette to explore 18th Century painting techniques.

The duo have been contracted to paint a number of portraits for a men’s social club. One sitter—a vociferous protestor against English governance—dies mysteriously a day after his portrait has been made. His death propels Jameson, Weston, and Alexander into an investigation of the man’s death and launches them into a feverish search for his missing Will. What the trio unearths strips away the pretensions of three prominent families.

This is an ambitious work that intertwines early Colonial culture, art, politics, morals, and philosophy with a lexicon that creates an intimate landscape and enlivens the characters. The novel is accurately authentic enough to please any historian, although the pontificating portions might be off-putting to some modern readers—but that’s the style of 18th Century fiction.

I love alliteration in writing, and the Jameson character provides plenty of expressive epigrams, giggling gibberish, witty ditties, and rhyming retorts. Brava. Bravura. Bully for Blindspot.
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