Dunne, Jul 2004, 23.95, 288 pp.
On a photo shoot in the Cotswold, model Bethany Marshall hires genealogist Natasha Blake to research her family tree. At that initial consultation, Bethany animatedly discusses Pre-Raphaelite model, artist, and wife of Dante, Lizzie Siddal. Also at that consultation, Natasha meets the photographer Adam Mason, who is working on an exhibition to emulate the style of Pre-Raphaelite paintings. He asks to a do a shoot of Natasha, to which she unenthusiastically consents.
Before he can take her picture, Adam informs Natasha that Bethany vanished, leaving behind an old Marshall family diary. Since her address was inside and Bethany is her client, the “ancestor detective” begins a search for the missing woman. As she learns more about her subject and the Marshall ancestry, Natasha panics fearing history could repeat itself because of Bethany's obsession with Lizzie, whose life end tragically.
PALE AS THE DEAD is the exhilarating opening debut of a fascinating “detective” whose expertise is in researching the past. The story line is cleverly designed so as Natasha learns more about her client's enthrallment and subsequently more about Lizzie, she realizes that fast intervention might be needed to prevent a repeat tragedy. Though the attraction between Natasha and Adam is mindful of the movie Suspicion, it also takes away from the haunting theme of whether Bethany will become Lizzie number two. Still this is a unique tale starring a delightful individual who makes a fine sleuth whether it is the past or the present.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner