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‘A Nearly Perfect Copy’ regrettably defined by title

 a nearly perfect copy by Allison Amend (284 pages, $25.95)

a nearly perfect copy by Allison Amend (284 pages, $25.95)

The high-stakes trade in fine art provides an atmospheric setting for Allison Amend’s second novel. Her two unhappy protagonists find dangerously tempting opportunities to satisfy their thwarted desires in this secretive marketplace, whose business practices Amend convincingly paints as considerably less lovely than the artworks being sold.

Elm Howells is a department head at Tinsley’s, the Manhattan auction house founded by her great-grandfather. Two years ago, her young son was swept away by a tsunami while vacationing in Thailand; Elm remains inconsolable, desperate to have another baby despite the qualms of her charming Irish husband and her middle-aged low fertility.

Gabriel Connois, a Spanish painter living in Paris, is sick of being a starving artist at age 42. Despite his considerable technical skills, he’s uneasily aware that he lacks the personal vision of his ancestor Marcel Connois, a renowned 19th-century painter. Gabriel is ripe for seduction when his glamorous new girlfriend, Colette, a French representative of Tinsley’s, introduces him to her “uncle,” Augustus Klinman, who offers him a lot of money to provide artworks in the style of his famous forebear, allegedly to decorate the rooms of a new luxury hotel.

A Nearly Perfect Copy is regrettably true to its title: cleverly rendered but lacking the spark of a true original’s inspiration.

For the Washington Post

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