Synopsis – An Art to Murder
Louis Mazzini, once an up-and-coming New York artist, is on Death Row in Texas, a day from execution, wrongly convicted of a friend’s “murder”. Resigned to his fate, he finishes his memoir, proclaiming his innocence in what was actually a suicide, but confessing to eight other killings, most of fellow artists whose paintings he owned. Mazzini describes how he acquired his collection, then realized when his career stalled and he faced eviction it could be sold for enough to solve his financial woes -- but only if the creators of the work were dead. He describes each murder, in which he cleverly used the quirks of each victim to make them seem like unrelated accidents. As he describes the killings, Mazzini also examines his evolution into a serial killer whose decade-long spree became spurred not simply by money, but for the pleasure of the act itself. A streetwise detective named Fratello suspects him in several deaths but is unable to develop any hard evidence.
In Book Two, Mazzini’s second memoir, he describes being saved from execution by his old lover, Sybil, also the widow of his “victim,” who materializes with her late husband’s suicide note. She’d withheld it for revenge when Mazzini spurned her affections, but agrees to reveal it if he leaves his wife, Edie. He does so, then erases his confessional from the prison lap-top on which he’d written it. When his mea culpa is recovered from the hard drive shortly after his release, Mazzini is on the run, along with Sybil. His “treasured freedom to kill” restored, Mazzini begins a perverse experiment to transform Sybil – who already has displayed strong sociopathic tendencies – into a murderer. A Colorado hitch-hiker and an Idaho neo-Nazi serve his purposes. Fratello is, by now, back on the case.
Mazzini’s plans are derailed after a call to Edie spins him into a depression. When it lifts, his need to kill has evaporated. Sybil, enraged by Edie’s hold on him, focuses her nascent fascination with murder on Edie. She dumps Mazzini and heads for New York with him in pursuit. Mazzini, Sybil and Fratello engage in a three-way cat-and-mouse game in Chelsea’s art district, which ends with Sybil’s death. Mazzini escapes to a cabin in the Catskills where he’s inspired to paint a series of portraits of his victims. A local gallery displays them and, unknown to Mazzini, also sells the reproduction rights. Fratello sees an image of a prominent victim on a T-shirt and closes in on Mazzini. Rather than flee, he finishes his second memoir and commits suicide. Because of the notoriety of his story, his paintings sell at auction for millions.
Lovers of English film will note that certain plot elements of Book 1, as well as the names of several of the characters are lovingly lifted from the great 1948 Alec Guiness movie “Kind Hearts and Coronets.”