Katherine Kovacic – Painting in the Shadows

Echo Publishing, an imprint of Bonnier Books UK, 2019

This is the second of Katherine Kovacic’s Alex Clayton art mysteries. Like its predecessorThe Portrait of Molly Dean, it is a wonderfully engaging read, a story that whips along at a suitably brisk pace and is  filled with personalities from the Melbourne art world.

Barbie speaks with Katherine Kovacic

The author’s wry wit is apparent throughout, but nowhere more acerbic than in the scene with Kev down in the stacks when Alex uses her art-school speak to bamboozle and bore the hapless guard into leaving her and partner in crime detection, John Porter, to their covert explorations and sleuthing:

‘Whiteley seems to be distilling new synergies from his known universe and one of hyper-reality and this manifests in his art in a way that – contrary though it may seem – is best described as a vision of utopia undercut by a sense of nihilism.’

And so it goes on. This had me in giggles and was a bright antidote to the blackness of some other aspects of this story. The novel in fact is way more than a simple crime fiction tale – it deals with serious matters of bullying and back stabbing in workplaces, these mirrored on a domestic level with the exploration on John’s fraught marriage to the manipulative Sue.

The deft time weaving and the gradual revelation of the back story of Alex’s previous devastating experience at MIMA (Melbourne International Museum of Art) and its reach into the present is neat literary work by Katherine Kovacic. It teases the reader to seek resolution of the puzzle: what went on that was so damaging?  The foreshadowing of the denouement is thus also rather cunningly wrought.

Having made the acquaintance o Alex’s beautiful wolfhound Hogarth in Molly Dean, I was pleased to continue that relationship. One does feel that if one were to get a dog, it would have to be a wolfhound. John Porter with his flaws, foibles and supreme charm has also become a welcome companion. I look forward to the next of these skillfully made stories, taking a dig at the art world and its idiocies at the same time as  showing due reverence for great works of art and the power they have to astound, enlighten and move us. ffffffffff