This is an unusual mix of genealogy mystery and history, centred on the glamorous Pre-Raphaelite artists and Lizzie Siddal, the girl in the famous ‘Ophelia’ painting. Ancestry detective Natasha Blake meets a mysterious, beautiful young woman, Bethany, who is re-enacting the Lizzie Siddal scene for a photographer. Bethany confides in Natasha her fear that her family is cursed following the deaths of her sister and mother. After asking Natasha to research her family tree, Bethany goes missing. Has she run from a failing love affair, committed suicide, or has she been murdered?
The trail is cold. Natasha must turn detective in two senses: she searches the birth, marriage and death records, census returns and wills, to find Natasha’s ancestors; at the same time, she is being followed by someone driving a red Celica. Adam, the photographer, is also Bethany’s boyfriend but Natasha feels there is more to his story than he is telling.
The narrative wandered rather from the central story, complicated unnecessarily by Natasha’s own history and love life which added little. Perhaps this could have been avoided by telling part of the story from Lizzie Siddal’s point of view. There were so many peripheral characters, both in the present time and the historical story, that at times I lost my way. I was also unconvinced by the threat to Natasha – the red car, the break-in. These jarred, almost as if added as an afterthought to appeal to lovers of crime fiction which I think was unnecessary. The kernel of the story about Bethany and Lizzie is fascinating in its own right.
Pale as the Dead is the first of two Natasha Blake novels. The second, Bloodline, will be reviewed here soon.
Read more about Fiona Mountain here.
‘Pale as the Dead’ by Fiona Mountain, NBlake#1 [UK: Orion] Buy at Amazon
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The Pre-Raphaelites & a missing girl: PALE AS THE DEAD by @FionaMountain #bookreview via @SandraDanby