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Still Lives

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Kim Lord is an avant-garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition Still Lives is comprised of self-portraits depicting herself as famous, murdered women—the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others—and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women.

As the city’s richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum’s opening night, all the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution’s flailing finances. Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala. Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls on the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie’s ex. A rogue’s gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord’s disappearance, she’ll come to suspect all of those closest to her.

Set against a culture that often fetishizes violence, Still Lives is a page-turning exodus into the art world’s hall of mirrors, and one woman’s journey into the belly of an industry flooded with money and secrets.

275 pages, Hardcover

First published June 5, 2018

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Maria Hummel

7 books276 followers

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 2,060 reviews
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,089 reviews7,946 followers
May 17, 2018
This was a pretty disappointing read. The description made it sound like a book that was right up my alley. And while everything mentioned in the blurb does in fact happen in the book, it's not told in as thrilling of a way as you might expect. In fact, for a 275 page book, the first 100-150 pages or so are fairly unexciting. Things happen and you (sort of) get to know the characters, but it's not very engaging.

Another issue I had with this book was that I never felt like I was able to understand Maggie, our main character, and her motivations. We get small glimpses into her past and her connections to the other characters, but we are kept at a distance from her. For a thriller/mystery where the protagonist is getting sucked into a murder case, you'd expect to discover things with her and feel that fear, excitement, etc. but it's all very one-note. There aren't a lot of emotions, even when somewhat dramatic things happen.

It also feels like it's trying to say something about the fetishization of violence against women, but the novel is more concerned with the appearance of making a statement than actually making a statement. Like the artwork of Kim Lord, it's all about the image and not nearly enough about the thought behind it.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 2 books247k followers
August 12, 2019
”For the four years I’ve lived in Los Angeles, the Rocque Museum has been my workplace and my university, offering me a degree in contemporary art and the cosmopolitan life---brilliant as the blues in a Sam Francis painting, decadent as a twenty-four-karat cast of a cat testicle. Most days pass in a pleasurable blur of words and pictures. Most nights I hate to leave my little office, especially on April evenings like this, when I can look over my mess of proofs, out to the greening city, and imagine I am still happy.”

 photo Blue20Sky20Painting20Sam20Francis_zps4tkf7y1x.jpg
Blue Sky Painting by Sam Francis

Unfortunately, we can rarely appreciate how happy we are until the moment has passed.

For Maggie Richter, Los Angeles offers an opportunity to find a career where she can work with intelligent, creative, and passionate people who care about the same things she does. Any relationship with L.A. would be listed on Facebook as complicated, what with its convoluted history involving more crushed dreams than realized aspirations. It is a place where glimmering fantasies are merely shimmering shapes that never fully materialize, and luck is as necessary as talent. Maggie knows that, with a city like L.A., there is give and take, but right now she feels she may have given too much.

”What happened between us still mystifies me: how two lovers can move to a city, and the city itself wraps around them like vines, pulling them apart, pushing them toward others, until they become so entwined in their separate lives that they can no longer recognize what they once felt, or even who they once were.”

Greg SHAW Ferguson, or I guess I should just call him SHAW since he is trying to morph himself into the Prince or the Sting or the Moby of the art gallery world, drops Maggie like a bag full of fire ants and scatters her emotions in all directions. Soul mated for life? Well, at least until he meets Kim Lord.

Kim Lord has a reputation for producing edgy, progressive art, but she has been out of circulation for a while, so this new exhibition, Still Lives, that she does in conjunction with the Rocque Museum, is not only going to reestablish her reputation, but also give the Rocque some much needed publicity, as well.

Maggie needs to meet someone new.

Work is still a great way to meet potential mates because of the ridiculous amount of time we spend with people we toil with, but for Maggie, the percentages are not so good at the museum. ”Of the less than fifty percent of museum employees that are men, half are gay and a quarter are married. The other quarter tend to date cocktail straws.” Ok, I laughed out loud at cocktail straws. I’ve met a few of those California cocktail straws who seem to exist on celery, coffee, and cigarettes.

The other problem that can not be denied is that Maggie is still hung up on Greg, pardon me, SHAW. She is suffering as a swan, a penguin, or a gray wolf, all creatures who scientists tell us mate for life. The problem is Greg seems to be a bunny, a ground squirrel, or maybe a flighty chickadee.

She can’t just move on, even though she knows she should. She has some caring friends who encourage her to jump back on the horse (Maggie does have a horse incident believe it or not), and she begins the endless setup dates of friends of friends that are bandaids on a situation that really needs a tourniquet.

 photo Judy20Ann20Dull_zpsn5xnc6ll.jpg
Model Judy Ann Dull was murdered by Harvey Glatman in 1957. Glatman took several pictures of his victims tied up in numerous poses.

And then there is Kim Lord’s face everywhere, even in the art for the show. The exhibit is highlighting women who have been brutally murdered, such as Elizabeth Short, famously known as The Black Dahlia, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Judy Ann Dull. In Lord’s art, it isn’t Elizabeth, Nicole, and Judy, but Kim Lord herself who is posing in the place of the original victim.

Can you imagine being constantly reminded of your rival everywhere you turn? Rival might be the wrong word, for how can one compete with the explosive vivacity and intensity of a force of nature like Kim Lord?

Then Lord has the audacity to go missing.

Suspect #1 Greg SHAW Ferguson. That middle name comes in handy now because serial killers, terrorists, and murderers are usually identified with all three names in the newspaper. Not much farther down the list of suspects would probably appear the name Maggie Richter. No middle name necessary at this point.

It might not be the best decision for a museum copy editor to become a gumshoe, but she is driven by a need to find out what happened to Lord, free Greg, and in the process hopefully find herself again.

These art museum people who populate this novel are culturally tuned in and have many similarities to the bookstore people I used to hang out with. They are clever, jaded, cruel, caring, driven, spontaneous, but capable of still believe the world can be made a better place. They don’t want a job. They want a calling. These are my kind of people.

Maria Hummel has a light touch. She is observant and descriptive in clever ways, with word choices that bring a smile to my lips. She makes me want Maggie to do more than just solve a mystery. I wanted her to go beyond just imagining being happy. I wanted her to find a way to BE happy.

I want to thank Megan Fishmann and Counterpoint Press for supplying me with a free copy in exchange for an honest review.

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Larry H.
2,440 reviews29.4k followers
June 14, 2018
3.5 stars.

The Rocque Museum was one of Los Angeles' hidden treasures—an art museum for art lovers and collectors more than for tourists. While this set the institution apart, this also took a toll on its finances. Everyone is desperate for a hit exhibition, including the founder's daughter, who is tired of bailing out the museum and the director, who is worried about job security.

They think they've found it in Still Lives , an exhibition by artist and provocateur Kim Lord. Lord painted self-portraits with her standing in for famous murder victims such as Nicole Brown Simpson, Kitty Genovese, Chandra Levy, and the Black Dahlia, in an effort to make a statement about how society and the media sensationalize violence against women. The pictures are chilling, eerie, and disturbing, and the elite of the art world are gathering at the Rocque to see the exhibition unveiled.

There's one issue though: Kim Lord doesn't show up for her own opening. Key museum staff receive texts that she'll be delayed a bit, but she never appears. And while her disappearance is helping boost the number of visitors, the longer she doesn't surface, the more concern grows, especially when some staff recount Lord's mentioning she felt she was being stalked in the museum.

Maggie Richter, a member of the museum's communications and PR office, wants to understand what happened to Kim, too, and it's not just because that would make her job easier. Maggie's ex-boyfriend, gallerist-on-the-rise Greg Shaw Ferguson, essentially dumped her for Kim, and it's not long before he stands accused of Kim's disappearance. Maggie wants to believe that the Greg she knew wouldn't be capable of anything nefarious, but she knows there are things he isn't telling her.

As Maggie searches for clues within Kim's own work, she begins to notice there is a lot more behind-the-scenes drama at the museum than she realized. Little by little, she starts to suspect others might have been responsible for Kim's disappearance, but she can't seem to make sense of their motivation. At the same time, she, too, becomes a suspect, given Kim's relationship with Shaw, but Maggie isn't sure what might happen—will she stand accused of a crime, or will she fall prey to the real perpetrator, who is determined to stop her progress?

"Find the who. Who gets hurt. Who gains. Whose life will never be the same."

This book is a fascinating look at the art world, the rise and fall of artists, the struggles of museums, and how collectors can change the flow of careers. At the same time, it's also a bit of a whodunit, one of those books in which an average, everyday person finds themselves immersed in trying to solve a crime despite having no real skills at doing so, and despite the fact they're putting themselves in danger.

The information that Maria Hummel provides gives a lot of insight into the former, and I like the way she describes the dynamics of the museum staff and the goings-on around the mounting of an exhibition. But as the book shifts full-time toward Maggie trying to figure out what happened to Kim and who was responsible, it loses its footing a bit. There is so much extraneous information thrown into the plot that I can't figure out what were supposed to be red herrings and what were just unresolved threads of the plot.

I like the way Hummel writes—this book has a breezy style, and the characters, while somewhat irritating, definitely got me invested in the story. While I enjoyed the book, I just wish the mystery part was executed a little cleaner, because it really had a lot of potential.

See all of my reviews at itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com, or check out my list of the best books I read in 2017 at https://itseithersadnessoreuphoria.blogspot.com/2018/01/the-best-books-i-read-in-2017.html.
Profile Image for Diane S ☔.
4,686 reviews14k followers
May 16, 2018
The glittering world of art can be at once insightful and nasty. Set in L. A at a prestigious gallery that is having money problems, a new show featuring the avant garde, often shocking Kim Lord. Her latest installations are paintings of women who were mudered in Los Angeles, including Nicole zBrown Simpson and the Black Dahlia. Lord uses her own face and body but the manner of death is prominently and sometimes graphically displayed. Maggie, a copy editor and proof reader for the museum, has roots in journalism, which is her first love. At the opening gala, Kim Lord makes headlines when she doesn't show up for her own show.

This is a tightly plotted, literary mystery. What happened to Kim? Clues are scarce, the timeline of her disappearance, suspect but Maggie is determined to get to the bottom of this crime. She has a vested interest in the outcome. In her journey we see the parts of Los Angeles that is far from glam. We also see how violence to women titillates and sells. We see the underside of the art world, from collectors who manipulate the market to scammers who are out for a quick buck.

There is a full, well rounded supporting cast and plenty of interpersonal drama. It all balances out nicely though, didn't guess the finale until Maggie herself makes the connection. This is a well done, well thought out story and is so much more than just a thriller.

ARC from Counterpoint.
Profile Image for Paromjit.
2,501 reviews24.5k followers
October 14, 2018
Maria Hummel immerses us in the art world of Los Angeles, a corrupt city of dreams and ambitions, mythic in its glamour and legendary in its violence in this Noir thriller. Kim Lord is returning to the contemporary art scene after 1o years away, with a controversial but arresting exhibition of still lives portraits of famous murders of women such as Nicole Brown Simpson, Chandra Levy and the Black Dahlia. Kim Lord herself portrays each murder victim, some see this as beyond good taste, part of the movement for the commodification and consumption of female homicide victims. The opening night at the struggling Rocque Museum is heaving with the rich and famous, art critics and the press, all desperate to meet the feted guest of honour, Kim Lord. As Kim fails to appear, there is a increasing sense of unease and palpable undercurrents, with speculation rife, is it a publicity stunt? Or has something far more sinister happened?

Maggie Richter is the museum editor, struggling to get over the break up of her relationship with Greg Shaw Ferguson, and carrying a haunting burden of the murder of a source that led to her giving up her fledgling career in journalism. Kim Lord's boyfriend was Greg, and he becomes the prime suspect for the police. Maggie has no reason to help Greg, but she is convinced he is innocent, driving her to look into the life of Kim Lord, those involved with the Rocque Museum, and the art world. An ambivalent Maggie looks for answers in Kim's self portraits as the dead women, looking for a stalker, observing varied off kilter behaviours as she searches for motives for killing the prominent artist. Her world becomes increasingly claustrophobic, worrying and paranoid as she delves into the world of the super collectors and the rise of the artificial artist, the rich and art dealers manipulating the art world for financial gain where the artist is irrelevant. Her life begins to disintegrate around her as she begins to get an inkling of the truth.

Maggie is a fascinating protagonist, for she is, of course, a suspect herself as the woman still in love with Greg, she has motive. She continues to try and find out what happened to Kim despite so many telling her to drop it, that it is too dangerous with a killer loose. However, Greg and the sense of unfinished business with the death of a source in her past will not let her give up, she remembers the advice of her journalist mentor which help to guide her present day investigation. The shady art world, with it's symbiotic relationship between the artist, dealer and collector is driven by money with most transactions happening behind closed doors. Hummel writes a chilling and compelling mystery amidst the background of the LA art world that is depicted with detail and authenticity. Maggie's a multi-faceted character, a bundle of contradictions, having to deal with her feelings for Greg, and find out who murdered Kim, a woman she has had antagonistic feelings towards. One of the highlights of the novel is Maggie's changing and deeper personal connection with Kim and her growing appreciation for her art. A great and gripping read. Many thanks to Quercus for an ARC.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,297 reviews4,828 followers
October 5, 2021


3.5 stars

The main character in this literary mystery is Maggie Richter, the 28-year-old copy editor and assistant publicist for the Rocque Museum in Los Angeles.



As the story opens, the Rocque is having its 2003 Grand Opening for a show called 'Still Lives', which features paintings of real-life female murder victims. The twist is that the artist, Kim Lord, depicts herself as the murder victim in every gruesome picture. Among others, there are paintings of:

- Gwen Araujo: the 17-year-old transgender woman who was killed by four men who had sex with her before they discovered her biological gender.



- Judy Ann Dull: the 19-year-old would-be model who was strangled by a serial rapist/murderer.



- Elizabeth Short (The Black Dahlia): the 22-year-old aspiring actress whose body was sliced in half.



- Chandra Levy: the 24-year-old political intern whose decomposed body was found in Washington DC's Rock Creek Park.



- Roseann Quinn: the 29-year-old schoolteacher who was stabbed to death by a man she met in a bar.



- Lita McClinton: the 35-year-old socialite who was shot in the head.



- Nicole Brown Simpson: the 35-year-old former wife of O.J. Simpson, who was stabbed to death.



The opening of 'Still Lives' - which features a gala and an appearance by the painter - is being staged near the Rocque's loading platform for dramatic purposes. The guests are milling around - and Maggie is consulting with museum staff - while everyone waits for Kim Lord, who's expected momentarily.



Maggie is ambivalent about seeing the artist because Kim 'stole' her boyfriend Greg Shaw Ferguson, who Maggie expected to be with forever.



Maggie and Greg met while working overseas, moved to LA a few years later, and were talking about having children when Greg suddenly moved out. He then opened an art gallery, started calling himself Shaw Ferguson, and took up with Kim Lord.....whom he'd admired for a long time.

While everyone's nervously waiting at the Rocque, Kim texts that she's on her way....but she never shows up. Rumors spread that this is a publicity stunt, but Kim is still missing several days later, and Shaw Ferguson becomes a person of interest to the police.

Before the cops can execute a search warrant on his house, Greg gives Maggie a flash drive and insists he did nothing to Kim. Maggie, who's still hung up on the gallerist, decides to look into Kim's disappearance herself.

Maggie is helped in her investigation by Kevin - a reporter who's covering the gala.....



.....and Hendricks - a private investigator with a murky agenda.



Though the book has the structure of a mystery, it's just as much a literary novel about art; art collectors; the workings of a museum; the public's fascination with violence against women; family interactions; female friendships; the ambiance of Los Angeles; and more.



In between doing her publicity work and probing Kim's disappearance, Maggie meets friends for coffee or a meal; goes horseback riding; attends a spin class; contemplates Kim's 'Still Life' exhibit; examines the flash drive Greg gave her; laments about losing Greg; and more.

Other characters in the book include Bas - the museum director, whose job is in jeopardy because of financial troubles; Yegina - the museum's exhibition manager, who's Maggie's best friend; Jayne - the head of public relations, who's tall and gorgeous; Evvie - the museum's registrar, who's an expert on art provenance; Brent - the supervisor of installations, who came from Broadway; Janis Rocque - the Chairman of the Board, who's setting up a sculpture exhibit on her estate; and various collectors, who brag about their importance to the art world.



After Maggie accumulates sufficient information she realizes exactly what happened to Kim....and the tale is a doozy!

I enjoyed the book's fresh take on the detective genre, and recommend it to fans of literary mysteries.

You can follow my reviews at https://reviewsbybarbsaffer.blogspot....
Profile Image for Elyse Walters.
3,847 reviews34.9k followers
June 9, 2018
“Not every woman fantasizes about being a sex slave or starlet or murder victim! Some of us just want to get sucked into a good novel and grow our own tomatoes one day when we have more time”.

How might you feel if your ex boyfriend
opens up an Art Gallery.... offers you a dream job ...then begins shacking up with *Kim Lord*....whose ‘every’ painting,
“is so powerful it makes your eyes bleed”.
.....who also happens to be a ‘no show’
at her grand Galla art exhibition with over 300 guests expected?

WE DO GET SUCKED INTO THIS NOVEL.....great too!!!!

This mystery - suspense-novel was not only well written & **enjoyable**, but a tribute to the gritty-crazed-thriving Los Angeles Art Scene.







Profile Image for Danielle.
778 reviews366 followers
July 13, 2021
I actually really enjoyed this mystery. 🤗 It definitely wasn’t what I expected. 🤔 There are some mixed reviews on this one, so I didn’t have high hopes- but I was entertained throughout. I’m not familiar with the ‘art’ world or galleries, etc. but I can’t say this would be an exhibit I’d be interested in… 😵😖
Profile Image for Beata.
697 reviews1,058 followers
December 30, 2018
Still Lives tells a story of Kim Lord, an artist who works in L.A. and who has a disturbing and provoking idea of presenting female murder victims in her works. She disappears, and Maggie Richter, a copy editior working for a modern art museum, embarks on a trail to discover the truth: is Kim's disappearance part of her artistic vision or is there a possibility that something terrible happened to her?
This thriller is rather slow-paced, however, well-written and there is no need for speed reading. The backgound of the artistic world in California is depicted most interestingly, and you can learn a lot about how modern art is perceived and sold, which is another bonus for the readers, especially those interested in art.

*Many thanks to Maria Hummel, Quercus Books and Netgalley for providing me with ARC in exchange for my honest review.*
Profile Image for MaryBeth's Bookshelf.
365 reviews80 followers
June 18, 2018
Kim Lord is a famous artist with a very controversial show about to open when she mysteriously disappears. Editor Maggie Richter finds herself sucked in to the scandal as she tries to figure out what happened to Kim, while struggling to reconcile with her own demons.

I had a lot of hope for this book - set in Los Angeles, art world, scandal....but, something just didn't click with me. I could not get into the story or the characters. I am clearly in the minority as this book is winning awards like crazy, so please take that into consideration. Every one has different experiences with books, this one just wasn't for me.
Profile Image for Jenny.
269 reviews91 followers
July 27, 2018
Still Lives takes the reader on a mystery set in the L.A. art world.
A famous artist, Kim Lord, goes missing on the opening night of her exhibit, "Still Lives."
The exhibit is controversial because the portraits are of famous women like the Black Dahlia, Nicole Brown Simpson and other murdered women.
There is definitely a lot of buzz and talk around the exhibit. When no one can find Lord on opening night, Maggie Richter, one of the museums editors, decides to investigate for herself.
Mystery, suspense, L.A., the art world, all should add up to one great book but sadly this book falls short. It lacks the suspense and buildup of a great thriller. In a great mystery/thriller, there is an expectation of anxiety, fear, excitement and a roller coaster of emotions that the main character experiences but sadly that did not happen with our main character, Maggie.
The book had characters that were unlikeable and lacked development. There was so much potential for this book but it fell short.
#botm #thejwordpress #stilllives
You can follow my reviews on Word Press at thejwordpress.wordpress.com
Profile Image for Victoria.
412 reviews317 followers
July 22, 2018
Make your life about the things and the people that matter to you, the ones worth saving. Keep them well and let the dead go. The dead already know their ending.

A literary mystery surrounding the disappearance of an enigmatic painter set in the world of museums and galleries drew me to this story, but it was the author’s writing that kept me reading. Hummel manages to infuse the narrative with a noir quality as she exposes the underbelly of Los Angeles along with some nefarious art world collectors.

I once saw a painted map of Los Angeles circa 1880…The dream of a city in a valley of paradise, flanked by the sea….Over a century later, immense, overcrowded and corrupted, that’s still the Los Angeles that people fall in love with….It’s also the city where monstrous appetites meet private hopes, again and again, and devour them. Where ambition is savaged and changed to devastation…’

Adding to the grit amidst the glamour is the artist’s latest work--provocative self portraits of famous murdered women--a castigation of the media’s salacious coverage and our obsession with these violent deaths. And it is in the descriptions of the paintings and the way the author makes you feel their vulnerability and, in turn, ours that lends a tension to the story while also making a point about our culture’s fascination with these victims.

In each of the paintings exists a dead woman, identified by her hair, her eye color, her clothes and gestures, and also, inexplicably, Kim Lord, wearing that death, the way shamans of old donned the masks and cloaks of spirits.

There is a large cast of characters all of which add to the intrigue and provide an inside look at the machinations of a museum and what it takes to put on an exhibit. Just as interesting to me was another of the author’s posits about super collectors and their influence on the art market.

Despite a ponderous first half and some misgivings about a novel that (maybe) had too much to say, I’m giving it four stars because I will always champion good writing and a satisfyingly complex plot.
Profile Image for Meredith B.  (readingwithmere).
231 reviews158 followers
May 20, 2018
4 Stars!

Thank you to Counterpoint Press for sending me a free finished copy of Still Lives!

This book's subject matter is unlike anything I've read before. It centers around the art community which frankly I don't have much knowledge of. Ultimately this book is a mystery about a missing person but the way the author wove in the Art community was very interesting.

Kim Lord is a famous artist and it's her opening night of a her new exhibit. She takes on a tough subject when it comes to her art: abused and battered women. She paints portraits of these women with underlying themes of abuse such as Nicole Brown Simpson. She paints based on emotion and tries to portray the struggle for women in these situations.The night of her exhibit opening she is no where to be found so she must be running late..or is she?

Maggie works for the press company and is covering the exhibit launch. The funny thing is that her ex husband Greg is actually separated from her to be with Kim Lord so Maggie isn't exactly thrilled. Maggie is the one that starts to put the puzzle pieces together of Kim Lord's disappearance. Could it be that Kim is totally innocent in this whole thing and jealously could be the real culprit?

As I stated before the thing that worked for me best with this book is the intertwine of the art culture and the mystery. The fact that Kim drew portraits of women who struggled and then she had a struggle herself was a very interesting story line.

I overall really enjoyed this book and it comes out in June. I recommend picking it up!
Profile Image for Umut.
355 reviews166 followers
January 9, 2019
I'm afraid I have to agree with a lot of reviews mentioning the same points that are missing in this book. I loved the cover and the premise. I found it very original, and still find the set up quite cool.
An artist who plans a controversial exhibit where she painted the well known women victims, who had terrible deaths. And the night of the exhibit, she doesn't show up. So, what happened to her?
I loved the gallery, art, artist dynamics. I thought the story would connect to this cool artist's past, maybe more to the paintings, etc. But, it took a more un-interesting route, so to say.
Maggie, our copy writer in the museum becomes the curious inspector here. Kim's (the missing artist) boyfriend is her ex-boyfriend, and he's the main suspect. She also had a past that was mentioned a lot in the book, which I thought didn't contribute to the story line a lot.
In the end, I found the motives of what happened really thin & the book lacking character development massively. There was lots of focus and pages spent on what didn't actually matter.
I think there was a very good opportunity to make this crime novel very original and interesting by developing Kim, and driving the story more around her and the paintings.
As is, I thought it was a weak plot with not so intersting mystery and characters.
Profile Image for Book of the Month.
229 reviews12.5k followers
Read
May 1, 2018
Why I Love it
by Sarah Bedwell

In the world of mystery novels, there’s an elephant in the room that no one’s talking about: society’s fascination with violence against women. Don’t get me wrong, I love this genre, but sometimes I find myself wanting a little more feminism to go with all the female victimhood. Luckily, I found this in Still Lives, a suspenseful, splashy story about fame, sex, and how our culture views women’s bodies.

Kim Lord is a prominent and provocative artist whose new show—a series of portraits in which she impersonates real-life murdered women—is about to be the art event of the year. Maggie Richter is an editor toiling at the Los Angeles museum where Lord’s work will be unveiled. When Lord fails to appear at the opening night of her show, it’s unclear whether it’s an artist’s stunt or actually foul play. And Maggie, who dreads the worst, finds herself being pulled to the center of a plot bigger than she could’ve ever imagined.

What happened to Kim Lord? I was flying through this book to find out. But I also loved that it tackled the sticky subject of how women are portrayed in art, culture, and the media—and the consequences of those portrayals. This is a thrilling book, and a much-needed one. Read it and you’ll see what I mean.

Read more at https://www.bookofthemonth.com/still-...
Profile Image for Sarah.
144 reviews94 followers
May 22, 2021
"Still Lives offers its readers a combination of entertainment and brilliance. It's at once profound and suspenseful, the ending had me gasping in surprise!. The book as a whole asks important questions about art and representation and how we, as a culture, objectify and endanger and victimize women.

Maria Hummel has written a remarkable, relevant, and necessary novel."—
Kim Lord is an avant-garde figure, feminist icon, and agent provocateur in the L.A. art scene. Her groundbreaking new exhibition Still Lives is comprised of self-portraits depicting herself as famous, murdered women—the Black Dahlia, Chandra Levy, Nicole Brown Simpson, among many others—and the works are as compelling as they are disturbing, implicating a culture that is too accustomed to violence against women. As the city’s richest art patrons pour into the Rocque Museum’s opening night, all the staff, including editor Maggie Richter, hope the event will be enough to save the historic institution’s flailing finances. Except Kim Lord never shows up to her own gala. Fear mounts as the hours and days drag on and Lord remains missing. Suspicion falls on the up-and-coming gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, who happens to be Maggie’s ex. A rogue’s gallery of eccentric art world figures could also have motive for the act, and as Maggie gets drawn into her own investigation of Lord’s disappearance, she’ll come to suspect all of those closest to her. Set against a culture that often fetishizes violence, Still Lives is a page-turning exodus into the art world’s hall of mirrors, and one woman’s journey into the belly of an industry flooded with money and secrets.
Profile Image for Lou (nonfiction fiend).
2,771 reviews1,624 followers
November 1, 2018
Still Lives is a refreshingly original take on the contemporary thriller set in glamorous Los Angeles. It focuses on the disappearance of controversial artist Kim Lord and uncovers some of the darkness hidden behind the scenes of the LA art world. There are plenty of surprises and I found myself completely immersed in the story and the wonderful setting. If you appreciate intriguing thrillers that are both chilling and disturbing, you will find much to enjoy here. The writing was easy to connect with and the characters are really very interesting, interesting enough that you want to read way past your bedtime to discover what happens at the end. At its core, is the exploration of societies fascination with the distasteful, sort of like when people can't help but stare at a car crash they are passing on the motorway. People have an insatiable appetite for the macabre, this novel highlights this extremely well.

Many thanks to Quercus for an ARC. I was not required to post a review, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.
Profile Image for Pamela Glass.
79 reviews13 followers
June 3, 2018
This book has received some bewilderingly high reviews. I was surprised at how slowly this "thriller" moved. It wasn't a difficult read by any means, and as a person with interests in art and it's strange intersection with capitalism, as well as feminism and the incredibly high numbers of acts of violence against women, it seemed like a really promising premise. Sadly, I found reading it a chore.

Hummel goes into such intricate detail describing very famous murders and kidnappings, not just once, but repeatedly. Which would be fine if it added to the discussion a great deal, but it felt that all that description was for sensationalism and then led to some overly simplified ideas: 1) society is preoccupied with violence against women and 2) it's really common. That is all. I think it's a pretty well-known fact that a lot of women are murdered and abused. I didn't really need a novel to tell me that in gory detail.

In Still Lives, we have the main character, Maggie, trying to suss out the disappearance of Kim Lord, an artist who has just studied ad-nauseum the lives of famously murdered women, and it seems neither of them thought to look into the violent parties. There is no discussion about WHY these heinous acts happened or WHO committed them. Merely that the statistics for violence against women are pretty awful. The gruesom details receive far more thought and discussion than the causes, perpetrators, or how to stop these things in future.

As I slogged through the denouement, I started skimming the drawn-out decompression of the main character. There are so many long descriptions of things that don't really relate all that much to the storyline. I like metaphor, especially if it's well mixed into the action, but I felt like I was slowly trudging through commentary on how great and seedy historic L.A. is, F Scott Fitzgerald's life, and Damien Hirst's career, starving for even a crumb of movent forward in the plot. It felt bloated and boring. And this book is only 275 pages.

I think Still Lives misses a lot of the deeper discussion that could and should be had about murdered women in the media. Bringing awareness to such a topic is always a positive, but if we aren't going to actually delve into what society is doing with this information, and what it means about us as a whole that we've become so desensitized it, then what's the point? Just shock value? I suppose one could argue that such shock value in a book about the obsession of exactly such shock is deeply self-reflexive, but the story simply didn't strike me as being that layered. Or if it was, it wasn't well executed.

There are better thrillers out there. I can't say that I recommend this one unless you happen to not be triggered at all by violence against women, and also have a deep interest in all three: historic L.A., F Scott Fitzgerald, and the ins and outs of the business side of the art world.

I will discuss the ending of the book after the spoilers tag below.

***SPOILERS BELOW***




Profile Image for Terrie (mostly "in" now) Robinson.
356 reviews518 followers
February 20, 2021
"Still Lives" by Maria Hummel is pieces and parts that don't fit together!

The protagonist in this story, Maggie Richter, copy editor and assistant publicist at the Rocque Museum in Los Angeles, has mixed feelings about the newest exhibition 'Still Lives' by avant garde artist Kim Lord. It's tough viewing the paintings, all self-portraits of the artist posing as famous female murder victims, Maggie turning away from some, completely refusing to look at a few. Seeing the vivid portrayals of murder victims depicted so realistically in the form of The Black Dahlia, Nicole Brown Simpson, Chandra Levy, the list goes on and on. This portfolio of paintings is the artist's effort of making a statement to the violence against women in society and how it is sensationalized in the media.

But, as disturbing and gruesome as these paintings are, Maggie is hopeful the opening event and exhibition will be just what the historical Rocque Museum needs to rebound from its serious financial drain! Except Kim Lord never shows up for the opening night gala event and she is still missing days later. Maggie wants to find out what happened to Kim, needs to know for various personal, compelling reasons.

The description of this book is so interesting and led me to choose to read this story along with Reese's Book Club recommendation. I want to get to know the characters at the museum, but as I read I find most are one dimensional, not a cohesive group and, in fact, quite bitchy. I wasn't drawn to any character in this book, not even Maggie. Sadly, I don't think I ever even got to know her.

This story was slow, sluggish, uneventful and never gives me an 'on-the-edge-of-your-seat' feel. On another note, the author writes beautiful, gorgeous prose throughout this book. But, it feels a bit unbalanced between the slowness of the story and the author's descriptive writing style. As odd as this sounds, the two just don't seem to fit together well for this story.

I listened to the audiobook and the narrator, Tavia Gilbert did an amazing job with the voicing. But there were so many female characters and certain points in the book where they all sound the same making it a bit confusing and hard to distinguish who was saying what. I did a certain amount of backtracking due to this. Perhaps more than one narrator would have helped!

I am sure others will and do love this one. It just didn't work well for me!

2 1/2 stars rounded to 3 stars for the author's gift of prose and the beautiful cover.
Profile Image for Patricia Williams.
555 reviews122 followers
August 29, 2019
This was a really good read, given to me by a friend. It was a mystery. First it was "where is she" and then it was "who killed her". I did not even begin to figure it out until it was told in the story, the "who done it". The story is told by someone involved in the whole story. It's about an artist who does not show up for her show at an art museum in LA. lots of things going on but very well written. I will definitely read this author again.
Profile Image for Mackenzie - PhDiva Books.
413 reviews14.4k followers
November 9, 2019
A famous and provocative painter goes missing on the night of her latest exhibition’s debut. The subject of her exhibition, Still Lives, depicts paintings of herself posed as famous murder victims from Los Angeles. The museum’s writer, Maggie, finds herself at the center of the investigation as her personal and professional lives become entangled…

A dark and striking commentary on our fixation with the macabre and the sensationalization of famous murder cases, as well as on the lucrative and often twisted web of notoriety and success in the art world. I absolutely loved this thriller!

The famous and enigmatic artist Kim Lord has made a name for herself by shocking her audiences. Her latest exhibition Still Lives really pushes the boundaries of the provocative nature of art. The exhibition features paintings of Kim herself posed as famous photos of LA murder victims (e.g., the Black Dahlia, Nicole Brown Simpson). I thought the play on the term still lives for this purpose was really clever!

Kim was such a mysterious figure in the book, which is narrated by Maggie—a writer for the Roque Museum where Kim’s show is being featured. In a cruel twist, Kim is also the current girlfriend of Maggie’s ex-boyfriend Greg. The woman he left her for. Now, when Kim goes missing on the night of her premiere, Maggie finds herself woven into the investigation. Greg and Maggie are natural sources of interest for the police.

Maggie herself has quite a dark past. I won’t reveal it here, but I loved the way it tied in with the current events in the book. I also really enjoyed the commentary that Hummel makes on the artworld and the tie between investors, the public, and the artist themselves. The whole part about super collectors was fascinating, and I actually slowed down to read it because I was so interested in Hummel’s points.

The ending is one I would never have guessed, and it was also kind of perfect. Both the reveal of what had happened, as well as the aftermath and what it all meant. This was a book with so many layers to it, and I really loved it!

“I hate this artwork,” Maggie thinks, standing in the gallery, fretting about Lord’s disappearance. “I hate the abject powerlessness it projects. I hate it because it reminds me there is an end for women worse than death.”
Profile Image for Cindy Burnett (Thoughts from a Page).
546 reviews966 followers
August 1, 2020
4.5 stars

Still Lives is a fascinating read set in Los Angeles that focuses on the disappearance of an up-and-coming artist right before the opening night of her exhibition. The book is significantly darker and more grim than I usually tolerate, but the originality of the plot and the subject matter kept me reading at a furious pace to find what was going to happen next.

Maggie Richter works as an editor at the Rocque Museum and has mixed feelings about Kim Lord’s exhibition, self-portraits of Lord dressed up as famous, murdered women including Nicole Brown Simpson, the Black Dahlia, and numerous others. On a professional level, Maggie is uncomfortable with the subject matter and the fact that the art work itself has drawn a lot of criticism; on a personal level, Kim Lord currently dates Maggie’s ex-boyfriend Greg who Maggie still misses. While the subject matter of the book is dark, Hummel’s deft and careful handling of the graphic elements of the story lessened the gruesomeness and allowed me to focus on Kim’s disappearance and the craziness of the modern art world.

I highly recommend Still Lives. I finished it weeks ago and am still contemplating aspects of the story. To me that is a sign of a fabulous book.

Listen to my podcast at https://www.thoughtsfromapage.com for fun author interviews. For more book reviews, check out my Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/thoughtsfro....
Profile Image for Patricija || book.duo.
486 reviews345 followers
November 23, 2020
4.5/5

Moterų gali laukti kur kas baisesnė baigtis nei kad mirtis. Ir ši knyga talentingai, skausmingai ir žiauriai, bet reikalingai tai primena. Trileris ir detektyvams tiems, kuriems nepakanka kraujų ir žarnų ant sienų. Kurie nori daugiau – daugiau užuominų į meną, į literatūrą, į muziką. Kuriems nepakanka tik greitų dialogų ir dar greitesnio veiksmo. Kurie nori būti apgaudinėjami tokio autoriaus, prieš kurį net praleimėti nebūtų gėda. Gi jei žaidi su geriausiu, garbė vien dalyvauti, argi ne? Ir čia – tobulas pasirinkimas intelektualių, įtraukiančių, bet ne besiverčiant per galvą lekiančio veiksmo knygų gerbėjams, norintiems narplioti tokį kūrinį, kurio autorė nepasitenkina tipinėmis žanro klišėmis. Jokiu knygos aspektu.

Sustingę gyvenimai – tobulas pasirinkimas visiems true crime gerbėjams, norintiems ne tik gilintis į kraujo balas, kurias palieka subjauroti kūnai, bet ir gerbiantiems viską, kas įprastai gaubia moterį auką – visus stereotipus, netoleranciją, seksizmą. Jiems skiriama daug dėmesio – ir ačiū Dievui. Tai – vienas tų kelių išskirtinių kūrinių, kuriose aukoms suteikiamas realistiškas veidas, papildomas pamąstymais meno, meno kolekcionavimo monopolijų, feminizmo, lyčių lygybės, seksualinės revoliucijos temomis. Autorė daug svarsto apie auką – ne tik tą, kuri guli kraujo klane, bet ir tobuląją – apie kurią kūrė per amžius ir kurs dar tiek pat. Ji klausia - kaip vertiname meną, kai sakome, kad jame leidžiama bene viskas? Jei pelnaisi iš darbų, apie tuos, kurie kentėjo, ar pats netampi skriaudžiančiuoju? Jei prieš kitą žmogų įvykdytą nusikaltimą paverti kūrybine medžiaga, ar nesumenkini jo reikšmės ir prasmės? O gal kaip tik priverti žmones stoti akis į akį su tuo, kas gąsdina? Tokie pamąstymai – labai vietoje ir laiku amžiuje, kuomet true crime serialai, dokumentikos, knygos ir filmai tampa ne tik gąsdinančiai populiariu, bet ir greito bei dažno vartojimo produktu. Kuomet nustojame matyti aukas ir pradedame matyti statistikas?

Negaliu sustoti žavėtis autore ir jos intelektu. Tuo, kaip talentingai ji aprašo meną, ypač paveikslus – taip tiksliai, taip kruopščiai, kad atrodo, jog ir pats stovi parodoje, spoksai į kiekvieną potėpį, matai kiekvieną atspalvį. Tai – neįtikėtina dovana šiais laikais, kai tikri muziejai – reta prabanga. Nemažai autorė svarsto ir apie šiuolaikinius suaugusiuosius – tuos, kurie gali būti kuo nori, miegoti su kuo nori, bet vis dažniau pajaučia, kad varžosi su tais, prieš kuriuos laimėti negali. Apie pasiekimus – savus ir svetimus, su kuriais tik ir taikaisi varžytis, bet vis tiek galiausiai stebi kaip medaliai kabinami kam nors kitam. Apie vidutinybes. Ir kaip skausminga jomis (ne)būti. Ir nors knyga turi minusų, būdama vietomis ištęstoka, vietomis autorei paslystant ten, kur slidu nebūtų, jei rinktųsi kitą žanrą, jaučiuosi gavusi tokį skaitymo malonumą, tokį akivaizdžiai jaučiamą autorės intelekto pliūpsnį, kuris žanro ribose retai kada būna toks akivaizdžiai išreikštas, jog žinau – rekomenduočiau visiems, kurie ne tik nori geros mįslės, bet ir šio to daugiau. Kurie narpliodami žmogžudystę nebijo pasiknisti ne tik kūnuose, bet ir protuose. O jie gali gąsdinti kur kas labiau.
Profile Image for Jessica Woodbury.
1,563 reviews1,933 followers
December 21, 2017
When a crime novel is set in a very specific place or time or industry, it can sometimes feel more like a gimmick than something where the story flows organically from it. But in STILL LIVES, more than any novel about art in my recent memory, the gallery and the art all feel alive and honest. Perhaps the thing that's bothered me most about novels about art and artists is the way the reader just has to accept that the art is vibrant and interesting, often it fails to appear that way on the page. But the scenes depicting Kim Lord's Still Lives exhibit were actually my favorite in the entire novel. The art is vivid, the ideas expand, it is almost like going to an art exhibit yourself, and that's a really significant compliment.

On the mystery/crime novel side, this is a solid entry. There are perhaps a few too many characters and subplots to juggle. Maggie's backstory, especially the way she's haunted by a woman's violent death in her past, adds depth to Maggie and the story rather than pushing those old trope buttons. The ending is not quite what I'd hoped, so much of the book deals directly and indirectly with violence against women, but that gets lost in the climax.

This is more of a literary crime novel, though I did feel like there were times when the book felt more literary and times when it felt more like a crime novel and they didn't always work together the way I would like. I wanted it to be a bit more cohesive in the structure and prose, but I read it compulsively and sped through to the end so mission accomplished.
Profile Image for Gabrielė || book.duo.
204 reviews218 followers
February 17, 2021
3.75/5 (žinau, užknisantis vertinimas, bet nu toks silpnokas ketvertas)

Labai patiko idėja - kalbama apie visuomenės dėmesį nusikaltimams prieš moteris, apie tai, kaip tam tikra prasme tai peržengia pačio nusikaltimo ribas ir tampa kažkokiu iškreiptu apsėdimu, tačiau taip iki galo ta tema daug ir nepasakoma, lyg vaikštoma aplink. Trileris ne tiems, kurie mėgsta šaudo ir gaudo, nes kur kas lėtesnis (kiek per lėtas mano skoniui, nes daugiau nei pusė knygos atrodo nereikalingai ištempta ir perpildyta neaktualiomis detalėmis), labai daug nuorodų į įvairius menininkus ir apskritai panardinimo į meno pasaulį, kas atrodė nematyta ir tikrai gana kruopščiai įgyvendinta. Autorė apgalvojusi viską ir yra žingsniu priekyje skaitytojo, kas visada labai smagu. Visgi viskas man buvo kiek per lėtai ir be didelės kulminacijos, nes ji čia taip kažkaip švelniai ir praėjo daug nesujudindama, o ir pagrindinė veikėja atrodė šiek tiek jokia - nei tu ją mėgsti, nei ji kažkaip labai erzina. Bet lyginant su skaitytais trileriais - šis neabejotinai išsiskiria savo originalumu ir sumanumu.
Profile Image for Meranda.
27 reviews
June 6, 2018
Honestly. One of the worst books I have read this year. However it is not for a lack of trying. I just couldn’t connect with any of the characters and the story never seemed to get off the ground. I was really disappointed because I was looking forward to reading this and it was a let down.
I skimmed half the book just to figure out what happened at the end.
Profile Image for Barbara.
1,285 reviews640 followers
June 25, 2018
Praise for “Still Lives” by Maria Hummel

A May BOOK OF THE MONTH Selection Amazon
1 of 22 New Books to Read This Summer (TIME)
1 of 20 New Books to Read in June (Entertainment Weekly)
1 of 30 Exciting New Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List (Buzzfeed)


The above is what attracted me to “Still Lives”. The novel has gotten a lot of press, so naturally I must read it lol. “Still Lives” is a thriller set in the art scene of Los Angeles. I learned that still life paintings started because women weren’t allowed to see live models. They learned how to paint looking at fruit, flowers, food, etc. The character Kim Lord is an avant-garde painter, known for her provocative art and behavior. She painted “still life” images of famous murdered women such as the Black Dahlia, Nicole Brown Simpson, and Chandra Levy. To make it more provocative, Lord herself posed in the exact same way as the murdered women were found. She photographed herself, and then she painted from the photograph.

On opening night of her debut, Lord goes missing. Some think it’s just her art; she’s missing to attract more attention. Others believe she indeed is missing.

The novel exposes the behind the scenes activity in an art museum. It’s interesting to learn about art collectors and the different positions of the art world. The novel is told from protagonist Maggie Richter, who is the editor of the museum. She edits all written publicity that comes from the museum.

Hummel does a good job in plot twists and misdirection. What I found lacking is the Maggie Richter’s character. When the thriller starts humming along, Maggie does some unbelievable stuff that I didn’t think fit with her character. It could just be me though, as I’m in the minority on not loving the novel. It’s a decent read. The glimpse into the art world is entertaining. I don’t agree that it’s a must read.
Profile Image for Jessica Sullivan.
518 reviews417 followers
May 22, 2018
“Never look for the what. Find the who. Who gets hurt. Who gains. Whose life will never be the same.”

I’ve seen some reviews lamenting that this isn’t the thrilling page-turner they expected, and that’s true, it isn’t. It’s more of a slow burn noir about the LA art world, with a missing woman at the center.

On the opening night of her new museum exhibition featuring self-portraits in which she depicts herself as famous murdered women, artist Kim Lord disappears.

Maggie Richter, who works at the museum as an editor, becomes swept up in the mystery, suspecting her colleagues and her ex-boyfriend, Greg, a gallery owner who was dating Kim.

As Maggie becomes more consumed in her own secret investigation, she realizes that her own life may be in danger.

This is one of those books where I enjoyed the journey more than the destination. The writing is sharp and interesting as it delves into the world of high art and muses on our cultural obsession with dead women. But the ending falls so flat and never really delivers on the provocative premise.

I thought I would be giving this 4 stars for most of the book, but a disappointing finale in a book like this has to knock it down a point.
Profile Image for Susan.
2,575 reviews601 followers
December 17, 2018
This is a thriller with a very interesting setting. The main character, Maggie Richter, works at the Rocque Museum in LA. This is an art gallery, where the newest, Gala opening, is for the artist, Kim Lord’s, latest exhibition. The exhibition, ‘Still Lives’, involves artworks, presenting famous, female, murder victims.

Maggie has mixed feelings about this exhibition; not only because of the theme of the paintings, but also because Kim Lord is the lover of art gallery owner, Greg Shaw Ferguson. Greg, now known simply as ‘Shaw,’ dumped Maggie for Kim and so the exhibition, at which Maggie is expected to be present, is uncomfortable for her in more ways than one. When Kim Lord fails to appear, this shocks Maggie into trying to investigate. Her feelings for Greg are still raw and, when she discovers he is a suspect, she is keen to try to clear his name.

I liked the character of Maggie, who is both insightful and vulnerable. However, without doubt, it is the unusual background of the art world, and those who inhabit it, which really made the novel work well. It was a wonderfully imagined world, and the creepy background of Kim Lord’s exhibition, really gave this an unsettling feel. The author worked in a Contemporary Art Museum in LA herself, and this familiarity with the world she has written about, gives a great sense of authenticity to the fictional world she has created.

July 10, 2019
Artist Kim Lord is a high-profile name in the art world and the Rocque Museum is excited about her latest exhibition, Still Lives, which depicts the artist as famous murdered women like Black Dahlia and Nicole Brown Simpson.

The musuem's staff editor, Maggie Richter, watches the wealthy art patrons arrive at the Rocque on opening night with a feeling of dread.  Her ex-boyfriend, the aspiring gallerist Greg Shaw Ferguson, is now dating Kim Lord and will no doubt be on her arm the entire night.

Except Kim never arrives at her own opening.  
Maggie assumes it's a publicity stunt but when Kim is still missing the following day, her disappearance creates a huge buzz in the art world, especially when people learn the artist feared she had a stalker.
Suspicion soon falls on the boyfriend and Maggie uses her journalism skills to investigate, gathering clues and secrets along the way.  

I feel like this story was written in hopes of opening a discussion on artistic value as well as society's acceptance of violence against women.  Unfortunately the talk about artistic value feels pretentious and the violence against women angle is really just building the story around an artist who created an exhibit about murdered women with a couple character's mentioning mostly in passing that they've been stalked before.  

While this story had me turning the pages for answers, I never connected with any of the characters.  I was interested in the mystery but it was lacking something--- in my opinion, it would've been stronger if it had been told from different perspectives.  There were several scenes that were long and unnecessary. Also, Maggie's past investigative journalism seems sort of random and thrown in as an afterthought without really adding much to the story.

And the ending.  Meh.  Nothing suspenseful, no twist, pretty anticlimactic.

Still Lives had lots of potential but the delivery was lacking.  This was a book club pick so I know I'll enjoy talking about it over dinner with the group soon.  Thanks to my local library for an available copy!

For more reviews, visit www.rootsandreads.wordpress.com
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