Mary Dixie Carter’s The Photographer is a slyly observed, suspenseful story of envy and obsession, told in the mesmerizing, irresistible voice of a character who will make you doubt that seeing is ever believing.
WHEN PERFECT IMAGES
As a photographer, Delta Dawn observes the seemingly perfect lives of New York City’s elite: snapping photos of their children’s birthday parties, transforming images of stiff hugs and tearstained faces into visions of pure joy, and creating moments these parents long for.
ARE MADE OF BEAUTIFUL LIES
But when Delta is hired for Natalie Straub’s eleventh birthday, she finds herself wishing she wasn’t behind the lens but a part of the scene―in the Straub family’s gorgeous home and elegant life.
THE TRUTH WILL BE EXPOSED
That’s when Delta puts her plan in place, by babysitting for Natalie; befriending her mother, Amelia; finding chances to listen to her father, Fritz. Soon she’s bathing in the master bathtub, drinking their expensive wine, and eyeing the beautifully finished garden apartment in their townhouse. It seems she can never get close enough, until she discovers that photos aren’t all she can manipulate.
Thanks to the publisher and author for an advance copy of The Photographer for review consideration. This did not influence my thoughts or opinions.
Let’s just say Delta Dawn is Joe Goldberg turned up to 11. Carter’s debut will make your skin crawl, but it is warped, intoxicating fun.
This was an enjoyable psychological thriller where you have to suspend every single shred of belief you have. It’s like a Care.com ad without the background check, and also happens to be really good at photoshop. Every time I think back to the read, I shiver just a bit.
I get it: the Straub’s seem to have the picturesque family with a beautiful home and high-end lifestyle, so why wouldn’t you want to be apart of it? While Delta’s way of inserting herself into that life is rather… farfetched, it clearly worked. Once you begin to see the family dynamic, though, you’ll see why they are blind to her ambitions.
The only character I genuinely felt any remorse for throughout the read was Natalie, which is why Delta was so easily able to break into the family. She saw how Natalie was treated by her parents, as sort of an afterthought at times, and she was able to force herself right into the family through that chink in the armor. What happens next is a spiral into envy, obsession, and manipulation that Dawn somehow finds herself treading the finest of lines.
Overall, The Photographer is a smart, gripping read that may leave you thinking twice about that family photographer or babysitter. Go into it knowing that the story is completely unbelievable, but much like a car accident, is impossible to avert your eyes from. I love how the author is also the narrator, and Mary did a phenomenal job bringing Delta to life. Highly recommend going that route.
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