Review of The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter

The Photographer

Mary Dixie Carter

May 25, 2021

Minotaur Books

Blurb: 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.


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.


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.


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.

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So here we have a wily, maybe slightly (or more) psychotic photographer, Delta Dawn, named perhaps after the song sung by Tanya Tucker about a woman who may not be all there mentally, who takes pictures of family birthdays and then integrates herself into the photos via photoshop. Is any part of her life real? The Photographer by Mary Dixie Carter is definitely an adventure into a twisted world of believe and make-believe by a photographer who knows how to make it all happen.

From the get-go, the reader is on alert regarding Delta’s behavior. Delta is always observant, trying to be a few feet ahead of what other people might be guessing. She’s always trying to be superior, probably because she’s always felt inferior since her parents were janitors at Disney World and she was that kid looking on others from the outside. She manipulates and lies with ease. She seems to feel very little sense of conscience, unless it comes to being caught and then the lies pour forth.

All of this prepares the reader for something that never quite happens because Carter has not made the stakes high enough, in my opinion.

Perhaps one of the best manipulative female characters of all time in a thriller is Alex from Fatal Attraction. She manipulates and we know bad things are going to happen. As readers and audiences, this is what we expect. If events are twisted enough, we expect bad things to happen. And they do.

In The Photographer we get mediocre things. I’m afraid to say that despite how well written the novel is, the author just doesn’t take us far enough. The climax and the outcome are a bit on the yawn-worthy side and that is so unfortunate. I felt like Carter just didn’t want anything bad to happen anywhere despite how she set everything up. She wrote this novel so well and wove a really great tapestry of character weirdness that was just never lived up to because she couldn’t let bad things happen. Yes, some things happened. But, for me, they were not enough.

For all of you writers out there: let bad things happen.

I’m waffling on the rating for this one. Writing and characterization is better than the plotting. 3 1/2 to 4.

I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.



4 out of 5 butterflies

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