10 April 2020

Review: THE PORTRAIT OF MOLLY DEAN, Katherine Kovacic

  • this edition published by echo (Bonnier Publishing Australia) 2018
  • ISBN 978-1-76040-978-4
  • 273 pages
  • source: my local library
  • #1 in the Alex Clayton & John Porter series

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.

My Take

The author tells us in notes at the back of the book that "The events in this novel are based on the 1930 murder of Mary 'Molly' Winifred Dean... While Alex Clayton and her contemporaries were all entirely fictitious, most of Molly's close associates were real people."

So I guess you would label this as "faction" - a true crime, a real setting, but many fictitious characters, and action, and an imagined resolution.

I initially found the book slow reading - I attributed that to a style that made you want to ensure that you understood everything. We knew from the very beginning that Molly had been murdered.

The action comes in two time frames: 1999 when Alex Clayton buys a painting and decides to find out more about the subject Molly Dean; and 1930 before Molly died. The text switches back and forth as we weigh the evidence that Alex gives us.

Here is chance to get in on the ground floor of a new Australian series with an intriguing pair of investigators. Two more titles have been published to date, and I shall certainly be following them up.

My rating: 4.5

About the author
Katherine Kovacic is a former veterinarian turned art historian who works with a wide variety of museums, galleries and historic houses. She lives in Melbourne with a Borzoi and a Scottish Deerhound. The Portrait of Molly Dean was her debut novel and the first Alex Clayton art mystery.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Faction, I love this word!


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