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The Photographer


The Photographer

Delta Dawn is a professional observer. Her skills as a photographer have made her a sought-after choice for wealthy New Yorkers documenting key life events. In particular, her ability to capture images of children have made her the choice to document their birthday parties. Delta has the uncanny ability to capture only the best, most perfect moments, to reinforce parents’ ideals about their children and, just as importantly, their skills as parents and the family they’ve created.

The novel is called THE PHOTOGRAPHER, but in fact Delta’s true talent --- and where she enjoys spending most of her time --- is in Photoshopping the photographic images she takes, altering them just enough to enhance a lovely moment into a sublime one, or to transform a sullen preteen into a content one.

"THE PHOTOGRAPHER is one of those deliciously sneaky novels that starts out seemingly innocently and soon begins to get under your skin."

Yes, Delta is an observer, perhaps even a voyeur. She has entered dozens of wealthy families’ homes without getting involved in their lives. But something is different about Amelia, Fritz and their 11-year-old daughter, Natalie. Amelia and Fritz are architects, and Delta is immediately struck by their sensitivity to light and shadow, so similar to her own photography work. Delta and Natalie hit it off, so when Amelia confesses that they’re in need of a babysitter, Delta offers to fill in. She becomes almost (but not quite) like part of the family, regularly babysitting Natalie, caring for their aging dog or running errands.

In her quieter moments, though, Natalie fantasizes about having an even closer relationship with the Straubs, perhaps living in the apartment on the garden level of their Brooklyn home or becoming genuine friends with Amelia, viewed as a peer, not an employee. As Amelia’s desire to have a second child starts to take over her life, Delta gets an idea for how she may be able to solidify her relationship with the family forever.

THE PHOTOGRAPHER is one of those deliciously sneaky novels that starts out seemingly innocently and soon begins to get under your skin. Delta’s first-person narration appears to be somewhat chilly from the beginning, but as the book progresses, she drops tantalizing and disturbing tidbits from her past that will make readers start to question her intentions. Even after the conclusion, questions remain about Delta’s motivations, and it’s easy to imagine two different readers coming to opposite conclusions about why Delta makes the choices she does.

The book is not overtly scary or suspenseful, but it still possesses an advancing creepiness that will propel readers to keep turning the pages to stay ahead of their steadily mounting dread. I suspect I’m not the only one who will read THE PHOTOGRAPHER in a single day (or even a single sitting). Mary Dixie Carter’s unsettling psychological thriller marks the debut of a talented new author.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl on May 26, 2021

The Photographer
by Mary Dixie Carter