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Pale as the Dead (Natasha Blake: Ancestor Detective) Mass Market Paperback – August 2, 2005

9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Students of the Pre-Raphaelites, perhaps more than whodunit fans, will welcome British author Mountain's literate debut mystery introducing genealogist Natasha Blake. Still struggling with the scars caused by her belated discovery that she was adopted, the sympathetic Natasha finds herself venturing beyond her usual line of inquiry when Bethany Marshall, a young woman who had modeled for a series of art photographs, disappears. Suspecting that there may be a connection between Bethany and the Victorian model Lizzie Siddal, the suicidal wife of the painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Blake taps her network of researchers to test her theories. Her activities lead her into an ambiguous relationship with Adam Mason, Bethany's boyfriend, and possible peril from mysterious figures who follow her and break into her flat. She diligently pursues numerous trails, encountering a fair number of dead ends before hitting on a clue to Bethany's past that could provide evidence relevant to some suspicious sudden deaths. An anticlimactic resolution may leave readers feeling a bit cheated. Still, the premise of a genealogist sleuth holds plenty of potential, which hopefully the author will better realize in her next entry in the series.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Natasha Blake is a professional genealogist, fueled in part by her own life: as an adopted child, she knows almost nothing of her biological parentage. From her Cotswolds cottage, where she lives with her dog, Boris, and the memories of a severed relationship, she is drawn into the work of Adam, a compelling young photographer, and his model Bethany. He's reproducing in photographs images from the paintings of the nineteenth-century Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood; Bethany is obsessed with Lizzie Siddal Rossetti of that circle, who died of a laudanum overdose. When Bethany disappears, Natasha uses the tools of her trade--birth and census records, a journal kept in Bethany's family, and endless reels of microfilm--to tease out where she might have gone and why. First-novelist Mountain captures the silken creepiness of much of the pre-Raphaelite story without quite revealing its gorgeous artistic legacy. Natasha is a mystery, too, and readers will be eager to meet her again. GraceAnne DeCandido
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: Natasha Blake: Ancestor Detective (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 292 pages
  • Publisher: Signet (August 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451216172
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451216175
  • Product Dimensions: 4.5 x 0.8 x 6.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,995,937 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By D. K. Stokes on September 1, 2005
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Genealogist Natasha Blake is asked to find a photographer Adam's missing girlfriend Bethany, because the young woman is obsessed with an artist's model from 100+ years ago, and the only clue he has is that she left him a journal from one of her ancestors.

The good:

The genealogical investigation itself. It was fascinating, with its blend of historical and fictional characters, and the convincing way in which one clue leads to another.

The characters, particularly genealogist Natasha Blake and the artist's model Bethany Marshall. They're richly drawn and understandable.

The tone. The story has a dreamy, at times almost surreal feel to it, fitting perfectly with the art.

The research. It was very thorough, providing rich detail without resorting to infodumps.

The bad:

The premise. It didn't seem realistic that Adam would ask a genealogist to find his missing girlfriend, or that there was any reason to believe she could be successful.

The attraction between Natasha and Adam. It threw me every time it came up, because I couldn't see a foundation for it or point to it.

The solution. There was a lot of build-up, but the ending itself was anticlimactic.

The verdict:

I liked the main character and the genealogical investigation enough to recommend this one with reservations, and to check out the next one.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Christina Lockstein on June 3, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Pale as the Dead by Fiona Mountain is the first book in the Natasha Blake series. Natasha is a professional genealogist who is contacted by a mysterious young women's boyfriend after the girl's disappearance. The only clue to her identity is an old diary that Natasha uses to find out who she really is and why she's gone. At first I was a bit put off by the distant writing style Mountain uses throughout the book, but as I continued reading, I could see that it is merely Natasha's way of looking at the world and that Mountain's writing is brilliant at portraying that. I was hoping for more in the way of actual family tree investigation, but I can see that Mountain is really setting up Natasha with a series of minor characters who will make appearances in future novels, and perhaps there will be a bit more depth to everyone in those. (The next book Bloodline is already at the top of my stack).
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Beverley Strong on December 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Natasha Blake is a genealogist with a flair for hunting out the off-beat in family histories. Her curiosity is fuelled by her own unknown antecedents and by her instinctive leanings to the unusual and hiden secrets od various families. She is hired by a beautiful young girl, Bethany, who is obsessed by the artist and artists model, Lizzie Siddal, wife of the pre-raphaelite painter, Rossetti. The story is both ethereal and all too real as the past and the present intertwine. This is the first of a series featuring Natasha Blake as a genealogist-detective and one which I look forward to reading soon.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on June 30, 2004
Format: Hardcover
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. The look into Dante and his age adds depth to the solid plot. 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.
Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By A real pageturner on January 11, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Pale as the Dead is a promising first mystery that -- like many first mysteries -- is strong on character and atmosphere, and a bit weak on plot. In Natasha Blake, Mountain has created a character with an interesting profession and enough personal problems to see us through several more installments of the promised series. Mountain writes evocatively of the Cotswolds (where Natasha lives) and of London and Oxford (where she often goes to do research). And she's obviously done a great deal of research on a number of subjects (the pre-Raphaelites, the profession of genealogy, medical issues), and manages to work the results of her research into the book without stopping it dead in its tracks.

The problem is that the solution to the mystery (at least, the 21st-century part of the mystery) seems anti-climactic, after everything that came before it. But everything up to that point was so good, that slight flaw won't stop me from reading the next Natasha Blake mystery.
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