Title: The Girl in the Painting
Author: Tea Cooper
Published: December 16th 2019
Publisher: HQ Fiction – AU
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 4.5 stars
For readers of The True Story of Maddie Bright, The Woman in the Green Dress and The Birdman’s Wife comes this atmospheric and richly detailed Australian historical mystery from a bestselling Australian author.
Maitland 1913 Miss Elizabeth Quinn is something of an institution in Maitland Town. For longer than anyone could remember she and her brother, businessman Michael, have lived in the impressive two-storey stone house next to the church. When she is discovered cowering in the corner of the exhibition gallery at the Technical College the entire town knows something strange has come to pass.
Was it the prehistoric remains or perhaps the taxidermy exhibition that had reduced the whale-boned encased pillar of society to a quivering mess? Or is there something odd about a striking painting on loan from the National Gallery?
Mathematical savant Jane Piper is determined to find out. Deposited on the doorstep of the local orphanage as a baby, she owes her life and education to the Quinns’ philanthropic ventures and Elizabeth has no one else to turn to.
As the past and the present converge, Elizabeth’s grip on reality loosens. Can Jane, with her logical brain and penchant for puzzles, unravel Elizabeth’s story before it is too late?
Ranging from the gritty reality of the Australian goldfields to the grand institutions of Sydney, the bucolic English countryside to the charm of Maitland Town, this compelling historical mystery in the company of an eccentric and original heroine is rich with atmosphere and detail.
Take a journey into the heart of Australia’s past, in the company of strong and inspirational characters in Tea Cooper’s latest triumph, The Girl in the Painting. A stunning historical timepiece, The Girl in the Painting roams through quaint Maitland Town, to the heart of the goldfields, through to bustling Sydney and even the British countryside. With touch of mystery and an air of romance, this new novel from one of Australia’s leading historical fiction specialists will leave you amazed.
Opening in Australia in 1906, The Girl in the Painting introduces Jane. Despite her tough upbringing, Jane becomes a mathematical pundit. Life has plenty in store for this intrepid young woman. The novel also features Elizabeth Quinn, a fortunate woman with well-made connections in Maitland Town. Along with her brother Michael, the Quinns are prominent figures in their local area. However, when Elizabeth is found in mysterious circumstances in the grounds of the Technical College gallery, exhibiting uncharacteristic behaviour, something is clearly remiss. The contents of the gallery where Elizabeth was found comes into question. With only Jane to turn to for help in rectifying her escalating mental state, Elizabeth relies on Jane to unravel this mysterious puzzle. The Girl in the Painting lays out a perplexing historical mystery, that is defined by strong period detail and extraordinary characters.
To read a new Tea Cooper novel is always quite a thrill for me. I’ve always looked on Cooper’s work with a great deal of respect and admiration. Yet again she demonstrates her aptitude for bringing a slice of history to life in the guise of an intriguing dual timeline historical narrative. The added appeal of bold and surprising characters ensures that The Girl in the Painting should not be overlooked. I found Tea Cooper’s latest to be just as consuming as her previous novels.
Tea Cooper has a flair for inserting endearing lead characters in her books. In Jane and Elizabeth, we are presented with two very interesting and colourful leads, with equally intriguing lives. I found both very likeable and I enjoyed going on a journey into the past with each of them. What I liked the most about this particular character set was the situations Cooper pits them up against and their responses. It shows us that there were definitely some bold and admirable women in times past.
Cooper treats us to a number of well-placed historical settings in her last offering. We are transported with ease from the Australian town of Maitland, which is an area of the lower Hunter Valley I am not familiar with. We also travel to the goldfields, as well as Sydney. I loved each and every locale. I inhaled the history, societal trends of the time and the cultural fabric of the periods outlined by Cooper. The Girl in the Painting crosses over a fifty year time period, which is quite a feat, but Cooper handles it complete ease. I favoured this part of the reading experience, along with the fascinating Historical Note at the close of the book.
With a mystifying historical puzzle at the heart of this novel, along with a gentle brush of romance, The Girl in the Painting has plenty to offer readers.
The Girl in the Painting by Tea Cooper was published on 16th December 2019 by HQ Fiction – AU. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Girl in the Painting, Tea Cooper, visit here.
*I wish to thank Harlequin Australia for providing me with a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Girl in the Painting is book #25 of the 2020 Australian Women Writers Challenge