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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Tonino Benacquista

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To purchase Framed

Title: Framed
Author: Tonino Benacquista
Genre: Novel
Written: 1990 (Eng. 2006)
Length: 198 pages
Original in: French
Availability: Framed - US
Framed - UK
Framed - Canada
Trois carrés rouges sur fond noir - Canada
Framed - India
Trois carrés rouges sur fond noir - France
Drei rote Vierecke auf schwarzem Grund - Deutschland
Tre quadrati rossi su fondo nero - Italia
Tres cuadrados rojos sobre fondo negro - España
  • French title: Trois carrés rouges sur fond noir
  • French edition first published 1990, revised edition published 2004
  • Translated by Adriana Hunter

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Our Assessment:

B : decent art-scene thriller

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Guardian . 15/7/2006 Maxim Jakubowski
Publishers Weekly . 22/5/2006 .

  From the Reviews:
  • "The pace never falters as personal grief collides with outrageous humour and a biting running commentary on the crooked world of modern art." - Maxim Jakubowski, The Guardian

  • "The author's familiarity with the European art world lends plausibility to the fraud plot, while the unusual main character makes a refreshing change from the stock hero of so much genre fiction." - Publishers Weekly

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Framed is narrated by Antoine Andrieux. He's a young picture-hanger, helping to hang art exhibits, but that's only his day job. His real passion is billiards, and he's a promising talent.
       The show he's helped put together when his account begins is a retrospective of the painter Morand. Standing out among the uniform black painting is one that is a striking yellow, Attempt 30 -- "and it was Morand's last piece of work". There is, of course, more to that painting than meets than eye, and it's Antoine's very bad luck to be present the day after the opening when someone tries to make off with it. Antoine gets in the way, and he pays for it, effectively ending his hopes of ever being able to become a billiards-pro.
       Antoine knows he has to get to the bottom of the crime that wound up costing him so much, and so he tries to solve the crime. Things escalate before he gets very far: there's murder, and there's a gal (a feisty investigative reporter). And there are the mysteries of the art world, with which Benacquista has some good fun.
       There's an artist who doesn't take all this too seriously, who lets Antoine in on the current situation

Nowadays, artists don't paint any more, they compose, they conceptualize, they confirm the fact that no one can paint any more, they put everyday objects on plinths and scream and shout about the end of 'artistic hierarchies' ... and they theorize about the death of art. Actually, they're just waiting for something to happen.
       A fair amount happens, though Benacquista falls back on some very tired tricks along the way too, most notably the breathless late-night phone-call summoning Antoine because of something so important -- which, of course, can't be revealed over the telephone. Three guesses whether the caller is still alive by the time Antoine gets there; three more whether Antoine instantly becomes the prime suspect in the murder ..... And when there's no other way out -- even of a conversation -- Benacquista simply has Antoine either lash out or get bashed.
       Still, there are some nice narrative touches too. the billiards angle is hard to play up fully, but Benacquista uses it quite well. And some of Antoine's introspection is also well done -- the letter he tries to write to his parents, or his feeling out of place in the fancy and artificial art-collector world:
All these people are beyond me, bigger than me, nothing here belongs to me, not the paintings or the ties, not the complicated words or the champagne, not the sound of all that pontification, the perfumed sweatiness or the limp handshakes, not the agonies of art and its obscure conflicts.
       It's a slightly complicated and convoluted case that lies behind the original crime and the ones that follow, but it's clever enough, and for the most part the story is gripping.
       The fun and thrills do make for a decent, if not completely satisfying, art-milieu mystery.

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Framed: Reviews: Other books by Tonino Benacquista under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       French mystery author Tonino Benacquista was born in 1961.

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© 2006-2021 the complete review

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