Monday, 18 March 2019

Book Review: THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN by Katherine Kovacic




Katherine Kovacic

An unsolved murder comes to light after almost seventy years...

In 1999, art dealer Alex Clayton stumbles across a lost portrait of Molly Dean, an artist's muse brutally slain in Melbourne in 1930. Alex buys the painting and sets out to uncover more details, but finds there are strange inconsistencies: Molly's mother seemed unconcerned by her daughter's violent death, the main suspect was never brought to trial despite compelling evidence, and vital records are missing. Alex enlists the help of her close friend, art conservator John Porter, and together they sift through the clues and deceptions that swirl around the last days of Molly Dean.

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Books like THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN ticks many of the things I love to read in fiction. There’s a mystery to solve, it takes place in the art world, it’s based on a true story - a crime that remains unsolved - and there’s a sympathetic protagonist.

What I love about books like this is our lead character, Alex Clayton, is passionate about her subject and takes the effort to research and dig deeper into a story that many others in her field would have ignored.

As an art dealer, we get to see Alex juggling her professional and ethical responsibilities; from buying and selling artworks (be it a gallery or  a back alley) to researching using all manner of sources and playing mind games with other dealers in the hopes of getting her hands on artworks before other dealers and at a reasonable price. A girl’s got to make a living, you know!

The book moves between 1999 when Alex is investigating Molly’s murder and 1930 when we get to see life through Molly Dean’s eyes. I enjoyed taking the trip back in time, and being familiar with Melbourne, I felt I was on this journey with both Alex and Molly.

Overall a highly enjoyable featuring a great central character (Alex) along with her wonderful companion, Hogarth, a Great Dane dog and her art restorer friend, John.

As I write this, book two in Alex Clayton Art Mystery series has been released and I am on my library’s waiting list to pick it up. 

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Katherine Kovacic was a veterinarian but preferred training and having fun with dogs to taking their temperatures. She seized the chance to return to study and earned an MA, followed by a PhD in Art History. Katherine spends her spare time writing, dancing and teaching other people’s dogs to ride skateboards.

A research geek, Katherine is currently fired up by the history of human relationships with animals, particularly as they appear in art. In 2012 she was long-listed for the Voiceless Writing Prize and she continues to contribute to academic publications.

Katherine lives in suburban Melbourne with Leonardo the Borzoi, Oberon the Scottish Deerhound and a legion of dog-fur dust bunnies.

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