Birth Marks (A Hannah Wolfe Mystery)

Overview

Hannah Wolfe is a London-based private eye whose jobs range from department store surveillance to baby-sitting billionaires. Once in a while she gets a case that's worthy of the great detective novels she ruefully admires. At first sight this one doesn't fit that bill: she's asked to find a missing ballet dancer, Carolyn Hamilton. Simple enough, Hannah figures: the young dancer just doesn't want to be found. But she is found, and not by Hannah - her body is fished out of the Thames by the police, stones in her ...
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Birth Marks: A Hannah Wolfe Crime Novel

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Overview

Hannah Wolfe is a London-based private eye whose jobs range from department store surveillance to baby-sitting billionaires. Once in a while she gets a case that's worthy of the great detective novels she ruefully admires. At first sight this one doesn't fit that bill: she's asked to find a missing ballet dancer, Carolyn Hamilton. Simple enough, Hannah figures: the young dancer just doesn't want to be found. But she is found, and not by Hannah - her body is fished out of the Thames by the police, stones in her pockets and an eight-month-old fetus in her belly. To the police it's a no-brainer case - single pregnant woman can't face her impending responsibilities, writes a suicide note, and takes a leap off a bridge. But Hannah can't shake the suspicion that there's much more to this case than meets the eye. In fact, she's fairly certain that the suicide note the police found in Carolyn's apartment wasn't there when she herself had gone snooping around just hours before the officially established time of death. Hannah's determination to put together the pieces in the puzzle of Carolyn's short, sad life takes her from the dance world of London to the upper echelons of Parisian society in search of the father of Carolyn's unborn child. When his explanation only raises more questions, Hannah finds the young dancer's pregnancy becoming the focus of her suspicions and her own ambivalent feelings about relationships and motherhood.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The tough-as-nails young female sleuth who debuts here is London-based private eye Hannah Wolfe. Hired by an aging former dancer to find a lithe and pretty ballet prodigy who has gone missing, Hannah learns that young Carolyn Hamilton, whose nerves required Valium and whose tender ankles needed medication, has left a trail of impersonal postcards and some hefty credit-card debts. Hannah has barely begun to dig when Carolyn's body--which reveals that she was eight months pregnant--turns up in the Thames. The trail back to her drowning leads across the English Channel to a wealthy family and an old man close to death with no apparent heirs. A refreshing Londoner with an appealing softness under her slick, self-effacing surface, Hannah skirts cheap gumshoe patter. Everywhere she turns she sees youngsters, parents and those who want badly to become parents, and all of seem germane to her nicely resolved case and her awareness that the snooze button on her own biological clock isn't working as it used to. Dunant also wrote Snow Storms in a Hot Climate. (Oct.)
Wes Lukowsky
Smart, self-aware, witty, tough, and sexy Hannah Wolfe is a very capable British private eye who first appeared in "Snow Storms in a Hot Climate". Back in London after a stint in Hong Kong, Wolfe takes on a missing-persons case. She's hired by an elderly woman who had become a surrogate mother to a talented young dancer, Carrie Hamilton. After a period of faithful, if long-distanced, communication, the London-based dancer had stopped writing. Efforts to contact her had been fruitless. Enter Hannah. Soon young Miss Hamilton is found. The bad news is she's dead and was eight months pregnant when she died. Hannah's investigation leads her from the dance companies of London to the doorstep of one of Europe's most powerful families. Anyone who enjoys the female sleuths of Paretsky, Grafton, Barnes, or Muller will thoroughly appreciate this British counterpart.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385423182
  • Publisher: The Doubleday Religious Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/13/1992
  • Series: Hannah Wolfe Series , #1
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 240

Meet the Author

Sarah Dunant

Sarah Dunant has written eight novels, including The Birth of Venus and three Hannah Wolfe novels — Birth Marks, Fatlands, and Under My Skin. She has worked widely in print, television, and radio. Now a full-time writer, she lives in London and Florence.

Biography

British novelist, broadcaster, and critic Sarah Dunant is well known on both sides of the pond for her bestselling series of mysteries featuring sleuth Hannah Wolfe. Other novels feature the challenging, often absurd, choices women face for love and identity.

Dunant's first two novels were actually co-authored with Peter Busby, thus creating their pseudonym, Peter Dunant. In Exterminating Angels (1983), whether they're called terrorists or modern-day Robin Hoods, the Exterminating Angels are out to set the record straight. For them, the ends always justify the means when righting the wrongs of the world. The political thriller Intensive Care (1986) describes a chance meeting at the site of an explosion in London.

The first book to be released under her own name was Snow Storms in a Hot Climate (1987), and features Marla Masterson. Marla, a young British professor of Anglo Saxon Literature goes to New York City to rescue a friend from her drug-addled, abusive boyfriend, but not before a murder mystery ensnares them all.

Three years later, Dunant introduced readers to Hannah Wolfe, a tough and witty Private Investigator. In Birth Marks (1990), Wolfe is hired to find a missing ballerina. Unfortunately, the dancer is found by the police -- eight months pregnant and at the bottom of the Thames. When everyone but Wolfe writes off the young single woman's death as a suicide, Wolfe pushes her investigation into London's dance companies and powerful Parisian families, searching for the father. Wolfe's reputation is put on the chopping block in Fatlands (1993). Wolfe finds herself on the trail of a violent animal rights activist group after they kill the daughter of a wealthy scientist for using animals in his experiments. The novel won Dunant a Silver Dagger award for Crime Fiction. Disguised as a customer, Wolfe investigates a string of sabotage at the Castle Dean health spa in Under My Skin (1995) and soon learns that, to some, beauty is something to die -- or kill -- for.

Breaking from her Hannah Wolfe series, Dunant's next release explores the line between victim and victor. In Transgressions (1997), translator Lizzie Skvorecky is making a living translating cheap Czech thrillers into English. When the strange events of the novels seem to occur in her real life, Lizzie realizes that someone -- or something -- is tampering with her reality, and accepts the violent challenge to her sanity. Kirkus reviews describes the novel as "an unsettling, often chilling, portrait of a compulsive predator and the woman who refuses to be his prey."

Mapping the Edge (1999) also portrays a woman's unusual challenges. When Anna, a single mother, takes a short vacation to Italy, leaving her six-year-old daughter with trusted friends, no one thinks twice. Until she doesn't return when scheduled. Anna's friends and her daughter endure the painful waiting while Dunant offers two explanations of Anna's disappearance. What if Anna abandoned the responsibility of motherhood to follow a hot love affair? Or perhaps Anna's life is in the hands of a sadistic killer.

Along with writing fiction, Dunant has also edited two works of non-fiction. War of the Words: The Politically Correct Debate (1994) debates the ever-changing idea of what is "acceptable" and the effect political correctness has on Liberalism. In The Age of Anxiety (1999), ten essayists discuss their anxiety -- or optimism -- for issues such as technology, family, and the end of the millennium.

Dunant's 2004 release marks her foray into historical fiction. The Birth of Venus captures the passion and the politics of deMedici Florence in the grips of a fundamentalist religious overhaul. As the city starts to purge itself of "the low and vulgar arts," the novel's heroine, Alessandra, falls in love with a young, suffering painter. Although her family marries her to a much older man, it is mostly a dismal marriage of convenience and she has a surprisingly large amount of time to spend at the side of her true love. Intelligent and daring, Duanant has combined a love story, a thriller and a historical novel in telling Alessandra's quest to find and protect her passions.

Good To Know

In our interview, Dunant shared some fun and fascinating facts about herself with us:

"I once worked as a hostess in a Japanese nightclub."

"My left foot is bigger than my right."

"I cannot whistle (no Humphrey Bogart for me, then)."

"Alas I don't have time to relax, although I am trying. The most important things in my life are my work, my children, my friends, and the possibility of a plane ticket to somewhere I have not yet been. When my kids grow up I want to have enough energy to get out a rucksack and take a long trip without a due-back-by date and the wonder to be changed by what I discover en route. Though right at this moment what I would like most is to remember where I put the car keys."

"And when it comes to writing, I just want to say that the novel is not the author. Just as the life is not the work or the work the life;instead literature is a kind of alchemy: turning lead into gold. Or at least that's the ambition."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Peter Dunant
    2. Hometown:
      London, England
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 8, 1950
    2. Place of Birth:
      London, England
    1. Education:
      B.A., Cambridge University, 1973

Read an Excerpt

Copyright © 1992 by Sarah Dunant

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