Title: The Shifting Landscape
Author: Katherine Kovacic
Published: March 31st 2020
Publisher: Echo Publishing
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary, Crime, Mystery, Thriller
Rating: 5 stars
Art dealer Alex Clayton travels to Victoria’s Western District to value the McMillan family’s collection. At their historic sheep station, she finds an important and previously unknown colonial painting – and a family fraught with tension. There are arguments about the future of the property and its place in an ancient and highly significant indigenous landscape.
When the family patriarch dies under mysterious circumstances and the painting is stolen, Alex decides to leave; then a toddler disappears and Alex’s faithful dog Hogarth goes missing. With fears rising for the safety of both child and hound, Alex and her best friend John, who has been drawn into the mystery, join searchers scouring the countryside. But her attempts to unravel the McMillan family secrets have put Alex in danger, and she’s not the only one.
Will the killer claim another victim? Or will the landscape reveal its mysteries to Alex in time?
‘From where we standing all I can see is a reflection of sky, an artist’s experiment with negative space and perspective.’
Ned Kelly Award shortlisted author Katherine Kovacic presents another spellbinding art crime novel in her Alex Clayton series. The Shifting Landscape is a remarkable and consuming novel, detailing an art heist, family secrets and criminal intent, which is all set to a spectacular Australian country stage.
The Shifting Landscape reacquaints the reader with art dealer Alex Clayton and her loveable sidekick Hogarth. When Alex’s work gains the attention of the patriarch of the McMillan family, she called to their country mansion in the south west of Victoria to view the family’s art collection. When she arrives at Kinloch, Alex uncovers a lucrative painting owned by the family from the colonial era. As Alex makes plans for this painting to be valued, she witnesses family tensions and she learns more about the tragic history of dispossession relating to the traditional owners of the land in which Kinloch is located. No sooner has Alex called on her loyal colleague John to assist her in this posting, when the head of the family is found fatally injured. This is quickly followed by the disappearance of the prized painting Alex is working on, along with a young child, then Alex’s dog Hogarth. This leads Alex and John on a search across the sprawling surrounds of Kinloch in search of the young boy and Hogarth. This dangerous search puts Alex’s life in jeopardy. The answer to this perplexing family case may be found in the surrounding landscape of Kinloch.
The Shifting Landscape was my saving grace this week. I have struggled of late to stay connected to the books that I am reading, but this sensational novel managed to maintain my full and undivided attention for the whole length of the unfolding tale. I have a great deal of respect for Katherine Kovacic. I just adore Kovacic’s unique blend of art, history and crime, which is all set to a strong Australian backdrop. The Shifting Landscape is book three in Kovacic’s Alex Clayton series and it is the best of the trio in my opinion.
If you haven’t been introduced to enigmatic lead Alex Clayton before, or John her loyal colleague and not forgetting the star of this novel, Hogarth the dog, Kovacic makes the audience feel right at home. I think The Shifting Landscape is such a powerful novel, that it easily stands on its own two feet. However, Kovacic extends upon her characters and places them in situations in this novel that will test them to their very limits. I really appreciated this focus and the interplay between the returning cast, along with the dynamics that play out with the new protagonists of The Shifting Landscape.
The extensive knowledge Kovacic possesses of the art world is astounding. I just loved these insertions within the text. I do have an appreciation for art and the art world, so this aspect of the novel definitely impressed me. The references to Australian art history was my favourite portion of the text and I consumed every single mention of an artist or painting. I think even if you are a novice to the Australian and international art scene, you will find this area of The Shifting Landscape absolutely riveting.
The Shifting Landscape is without a doubt an addictive family crime novel. The fight between the McMillan clan over entitlement and possessions is unmistakable. Through Alex’s assignment to the Kinloch property, the reader is also thrown into the chaos this bequest ensues. From a family at war, through to a suspicious fatality, a missing child, gunshots and of course a stolen painting, there is plenty for the reader to contend with. The pace is strong and even, ensuring that the audience is completely involved. I was committed to solving this case from the onset, just like Alex and sidekick John.
It was wonderful to see Hogarth the dog have his turn in the spotlight and shine even more in this issue of the series. Hogarth is such a big character and I opened up my heart to his heroic antics. Even if you are not a dog lover, this delightful canine will be sure to win you over!
I feel it is important to mention some of the sub themes that circulate around this novel. Although there is a focus on family secrets and the missing painting, I do feel as though Kovacic did a brilliant job of drawing our attention to rights of the traditional owners of the land, who occupied this region of Victoria in years past. We also receive a glimpse into colonialism and the treatment of the indigenous, through the guise of an artist’s impression. Kovacic also takes her central protagonists on a meaningful sojourn to a local sacred site, which reveals a great deal of cultural history about the tribes who occupied this land and their practices, such as eel farming. I found this very educative.
Passionately told, The Shifting Landscape displays Katherine Kovacic’s deep respect for the art world and her vivid recreation of Australia’s distinct landscape. Intertwining a complex family mystery within the realms of a fascinating art history tale, has resulted in this high-class addition to the Alex Clayton series.
The Shifting Landscape by Katherine Kovacic was published on 31 March 2020 by Echo Publishing. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.
To learn more about the author of The Shifting Landscape, Katherine Kovacic, visit here.
*Thanks extended to Echo Publishing for providing a free copy of this book for review purposes.
The Shifting Landscape is book #40 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge