Edgar Award winner in 2000.
"Everyone who's ever met Jack has thought about killing him," says Vincent Cummings, an art dealer. He is talking about the no-talent, manic, unctuous and abusive painter, Jack Brooks.
With images ranging from "Diabolique" to "Deathtrap" executing a nimble danse macabre in his head, Joe DiPietro, American Stage's favored playwright, is taking a stab at an impish murder mystery.
Even though The Art of Murder is as much about the merchandising and the counterfeiting of art as the plotting and the counterplotting of murder, Mr. DiPietro is in an experimental mode on both scores. He is trying to freshen up stock devices of the suspense and scare genres: blackmail, a fake corpse, a mysteriously moved painting and all manner of not-unexpected red herrings. Jack and Annie's country house is set deep in the woods. An offstage artist commits suicide. And there are guns. It isn't long before Annie gets hers. Some, of course, shoot blanks.
"You're a monster," Annie says. "Give me a kiss," Jack responds. Just as she desperately seeks identity, he is, as desperately and, it goes without saying, unscrupulously, looking to make a million with his bogus masterpiece, "Study in Red No. 4." It never occurred to Jack to paint No. 1, 2 and 3 first. Besides, the color is yellow.