The Portrait of Molly DeanIf I could have commissioned a book to be written which would cover all my own interests.. art, crime, mystery, relationships.. this could have been the one! I LOVED IT! (I KNOW it is only February, but I suspect this could be my favourite ‘Book Of The Year”!)

Not only did I enjoy it very much, but it intrigued me and sent me on a search through the internet for more information. I was most surprised to read that two previous books, both of which I had read years ago, had mentioned the death of the beautiful artists’ model and aspiring journalist, Molly Dean. who was brutally murdered in Bohemian Melbourne’s early 1930s.

My Brother Jack by George Johnston and Through The Eye Of The Beholder, autobiography of free spirited artist, Betty Roland, have both written about this unsolved murder and Betty Roland’s name appears quite frequently (and not without a critical tone on the author’s part!) in this book.

Set in St. Kilda, it covers Molly’s relationship with artist Colin Colihan, her work as a teacher in a school for ‘Special Children’, her passionate desire to become a journalist and her strained relationship with her mother and with the man assumed to be her mother’s live-in lover.

The part of the story told in the early 30s covers Molly’s life and loves at the time and we learn of her background and her ambitions. We also catch a glimpse of the colourful Melbourne life style of that time. Alternate chapters focus on Alex Clayton, an art dealer who buys the portrait of Molly at auction, a purchase followed by a very generous offer, made by an unknown person, to buy it from her.

Already intrigued by what she has discovered about the identity of the artist when she examined the painting, Alex declines and, as they say, the plot thickens. With the help of her good friend, conservator John Porter, she sets out to research Molly and her background and becomes more enthralled with each new discovery.

Alex seeks out the elderly granddaughter of the detective who handled the investigation into Molly’s death and learns more of the background story.

This book is totally enthralling and leaves one with a burning desire to know more! Can’t recommend it enthusiastically enough! Loved it………

You can read about my interview with Katherine in this week’s The Good Life column. (

Ann Creber
The Good Life on 3MDR 97.1 FM, streaming on (Live to air every Monday between 3.00-5.00 P.M.

Publisher – Bonnier Publishing, Richmond


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