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?
While The Shifting Landscape features art and murder, the core theme is one of possession and dispossession.
Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
I used to dance mambo (and I miss it)!
Why did you choose these themes in your book and were you aware of them from the outset?
I was aware of the themes from the outset, but I don’t feel I actively ‘chose’ them. They were already part of the setting and history for this book. My protagonist, Alex Clayton, is an art dealer and the colonial art of this region of Australia is also rich with the concepts I wanted to tackle.
How difficult was it for you to write this book? Did you face any obstacles?
While I wouldn’t call it an obstacle, The Shifting Landscape is set in Victoria’s Western District with a storyline that involves the Indigenous landscape of Budj Bim. I did extensive research on the history of the region and I wanted readers to engage with that, without being overwhelmed.
Do you always write in this genre or do you like to break out of the box?
I love writing crime, but occasionally I break out of the box! I actually have a waiting room of characters in my head with different stories to tell …
What are your writing habits or idiosyncrasies?
I am definitely a knitter! I have to start at the beginning and keep going without jumping around. If there are particular ideas for later in the story, I write them as notes only and only flesh them out as I arrive at that point in the narrative.
I walk my dogs before dawn, and it’s the perfect time to let a plot unfold in my mind. There is often frantic scribbling the moment we walk in the door!
What’s next for your writing?
Another book in the Alex Clayton art mystery series, and a true crime.
Katherine Kovacic is a former veterinarian turned art historian who works with a wide variety of museums, galleries and historic houses. She lives in Melbourne with a Borzoi and a Scottish Deerhound. The Shifting Landscape is the third Alex Clayton art mystery.