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.
Review by Sarah McDuling
The Portrait of Molly Dean is one of my favourite kind of books – a dual timeline historical mystery. And even better… it’s Australian! I wish there were more books like this. I love reading about people in the contemporary world (or in this case the late nineties) who become obsessed by events in history and determine to solve an old mystery. It’s a special treat when the setting is Australian.
Based on a true unsolved murder case, the story switches back and forth through time following Alex, an art dealer in 1999 and Mary “Molly” Dean in 1930.
When Alex purchases a painting of of the tragically murdered Molly Dean, her curiosity is piqued and she slowly becomes obsessed by the details of the case, determined to uncover the identity of Molly’s murderer.
Meanwhile in Melbourne, 1930, Molly Dean is an aspiring writer who works as a teacher and is in love with an artist. She is a modern woman full of ambition, doing her best to put her difficult past behind her and pursue her dreams.
The great thing about this book is that so often in dual timeline narratives I find myself more interested in one of the timelines while the other one is comparatively less intriguing. In The Portrait of Molly Dean I did not have this problem. On the contrary, I felt a strong affinity for both Alex and Molly and found myself equally spellbound by both timelines.
And can I just take a moment to mention Alex’s dog, Hogarth, who is possibly my favourite character of all? You’ve gotta love a book with a strong supporting canine character!!
The Portrait of Molly Dean is an utterly enthralling and captivating read that will appeal to fans of Kate Morton, Susanna Kearsley and Kate Mosse. Also the perfect read for anyone, like me, with an interest in Australian historical crime. I am already looking forward to Katherine Kovacic’s next book!
About the Author
Katherine Kovacic was a veterinarian but preferred training 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. She lives in suburban Melbourne with Leonardo the Borzoi, Oberon the Scottish Deerhound and a legion of dog-fur dust bunnies. In 2012 she was long-listed for the Voiceless Writing Prize and she continues to contribute to academic publications. The Portrait of Molly Dean is her debut novel.
‘A swirl of history, art, intrigue and murder that brings 1930s Melbourne to life’