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.
In 1930, twenty-six-year-old Molly Dean has a good job as a teacher but yearns to leave her middle-class life behind and become a writer. She lives with her manipulative and sometimes violent mother, but spends much of her time in the company of Melbourne's artists and intellectuals. Molly is romantically involved with the painter Colin Colahan. Colin is painting Molly's portrait and during one of the final sittings, Molly reveals her plan to abandon teaching and devote herself to writing. Molly has no idea that in entering the -enlightened' artistic circles on 1930s Melbourne, she is putting her life in danger.
Told through two intersecting storylines and inspired by a true crime, Kovacic skilfully weaves the narrative of Molly's 1930s life with Alex's modern day murder-mystery investigation into the burgeoning young socialite's violent and unsolved death.
With echoes of Dominic Smith's, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos and the novels of Kimberly Freeman, The Portrait of Molly Dean is a page-turning mystery that will appeal to art lovers and fans of crime and historical fiction, by an exciting new Australian voice.
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.
The Portrait of Molly Dean
Author: Katherine Kovacic