A great read. Hard to put down
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!
A great read. Hard to put down
What a fantatsic and gripping read. Couldn't put it down and thoroughly encourgae others to enjoy!
4.5★s "The painting is filthy and the varnish has discoloured to a nasty yellow, which is probably part of the reason Lane & Co. has failed to recognise the artist. But I can see the jewel tones beneath the dirt, and as I gaze at the lovely young woman with her short dark bob and mischievous brown eyes, I know I am staring into the face of Molly Dean." The Portrait of Molly Dean is the first novel by Australian veterinarian, art historian and author, Katherine Kovacic. When art dealer Alex Clayton manages to buy, at the bargain price of $3000, a heretofore unknown portrait of Molly Dean by Colin Colahan, her plan is to clean it up, find it some provenance, add some interest with a backstory, then move it on for a sizeable profit. Provenance proves impossible, but the backstory will do: Molly Dean was murdered is a Melbourne back lane in November 1930. But as she checks the facts and does some research, Alex becomes intrigued by the circumstances of Molly's death. Missing documents are a puzzle. And it seems someone rather badly wants to have the portrait. Or do they just want Alex not to have it? What secrets might it hold? The novel is split into two time periods, with the 1999 first-person narrative giving Alex's point of view, while the 1930 third-person is from Molly's perspective. Basing her tale on real-life events, Kovacic sticks fairly closely to the known facts about Molly Dean's death, but she fills out the main historical characters, giving them life. She gives the reader a plausible version of the events preceding Molly's death, and throws her present-day characters into a fascinating adventure. Kovacic's knowledge of art history and conservation is apparent in every chapter: she manages to subtly include in the story a wealth of art-related information without ever boring the reader. Her characters are well rendered: Molly, determined to better her situation; Alex, intrigued by the unsolved murder; John, providing support and a sounding board for A
‘A swirl of history, art, intrigue and murder that brings 1930s Melbourne to life’
Published: 1st March 2018
Publisher: Bonnier Publishing Australia
Country of Publication: AU