Disclaimer: I received a free electronic copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
The Art of the Imperfect, a murder mystery set in Scarborough by Kate Evans follows the lives of characters in a seaside town after the murder of a well-known psychotherapist, Dr. Greene. While the novel certainly is a murder mystery, as a fair portion of the plot revolves around solving Dr. Greene’s murder, the reader should note that the novel is more than just a crime novel. In fact, I daresay this novel may not be for fans of dark, gritty, police procedural novels. The purpose of the novel lies much more in how Dr. Greene’s murder affects the residents of Scarborough and the way their lives intertwine because of the crime.
The Art of the Imperfect has multiple narrators, but the protagonist is Hannah, the woman who first discovers Dr. Greene’s corpse. Despite training to be a counselor herself, Hannah struggles with depression and possibly a bit of post-traumatic stress after the experience. The reader watches, as if from the outside, as Hannah battles her own insecurity, her inability to trust and connect with others, family problems, and darker demons that lurk within her psyche.
The other primary narrators of The Art of the Imperfect are Detective Sargeant Theo Akande, who is investigating Dr. Greene’s death, and Aurora, a solicitor who is experiencing postpartum depression. Theo seems to be the most reliable narrator, and the reader follows him on the journey to solve Dr. Greene’s murder, which hits numerous dead ends and reveals more unreliable suspects. Aurora, who happened to be my favorite character, believes her husband may be Dr. Greene’s killer. Evans writes Aurora’s passages poetically and with some of the most unique descriptions I have read. It is through Aurora’s eyes that the language truly shines.
Given the various and psychologically unstable characters, the plot of The Art of the Imperfect is a bit difficult to follow. I found it difficult to separate the facts from the delusions, which at times made me lose focus on the action and left me uncertain as to who actually killed Dr. Greene. For me, the murder mystery itself was the weakest part of the novel, but the characters and their fascinating journeys made up for it. (On a cultural note, I should also add that, as an American, I did not know all of the abbreviations used and places referred to, which may have taken some of the depth of the novel away from me.)
Overall, The Art of the Imperfect is a beautifully-written psychological journey into the minds of characters after a trauma. The way Evans writes from unstable perspectives is poetic, and the way she interwove the lives of the characters is clever. While I found the actual crime mystery lacking, Evans more than makes up with it with her language and understanding of the human mind. I recommend this novel to anyone interested in psychology, psychological issues, and light crime.
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