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An unsolved murder takes one of Australia’s foremost writers of non-fiction into the 1930s Bohemian demi-monde, exploring the fate of a talented young woman trying to make her way in that artistic, sexualised, ‘liberated’ world.

As enigmatic in life as in death, Mollie Dean was a woman determined to transcend. Creatively ambitious and sexually precocious, at twenty-five she was a poet, aspiring novelist and muse on the peripheries of Melbourne’s bohemian salons – until one night in 1930 she was brutally slain by an unknown killer in a laneway while walking home.

Her family was implicated. Those in her circle, including her acclaimed artist lover Colin Colahan, were shamed. Her memory was anxiously suppressed. Yet the mystery of her death rendered more mysterious her life and Mollie’s story lingered, incorporated into memoir, literature, television, theatre and song, most notably in George Johnston’s classic My Brother Jack.

In A Scandal in Bohemia, Gideon Haigh explodes the true crime genre with a murder story about life as well as death. Armed with only a single photograph and echoes of Mollie’s voice, he has reassembled the precarious life of a talented woman without a room of her own – a true outsider, excluded by the very world that celebrated her in its art. In this work of restorative justice, Mollie Dean emerges as a tenacious, charismatic, independent woman for whom society had no place, and whom everybody tried to forget – but nobody could.


Haigh's narrative takes shape through powerful 'layers of association' ... as much a portrait of Mollie's life and death as it is a portrayal of the city and the society in which she lived.

Australian Book Review

In this latest addition to his true crime oeuvre, Melbourne journalist and polymath Gideon Haigh attempts to uncover Dean's life as well as her death... the book is a fascinating exploration.

The Saturday Paper

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback


    April 2, 2018

    Hamish Hamilton

    RRP $32.99

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    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

  • EBook


    March 28, 2018

    Penguin eBooks

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For one who spent so much time surrounded by sharp-eyed artists and writers, Mollie Dean would prove a challenge to describe. She was ‘very, very attractive, very beautiful’, thought the painter Colin Colahan, and ‘knew her power with men’. She was ‘not really beautiful but had a certain sultry charm’, countered the playwright Betty Roland, being ‘somewhat sullen-looking with a well-cut sensuous mouth’. Passing moods lit her face from within: one writer thought her ‘plain in repose’; another evoked her ‘dusky glow’. A solitary photograph, widely published, is grainy and flat, lent character only by the eyes’ steady gaze and the jaw’s slight clench. Newspapers made up for its deficiencies with expressive prose: ‘Five feet, six inches [168 cm] in height, dark bobbed hair, dark complexion, well-set determined-looking features, little or no powder on face, slim to medium build’; ‘A good conversationalist, she had a low speaking voice, an excellent thing in a woman. Her avowed preference was for the society of men older than herself – a feeling that inevitably outgrows itself in time.’

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Gideon Haigh Q&A

Elevating the life of the victim above the shocking outcomes of crime.

Also by Gideon Haigh

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Stroke of Genius
Certain Admissions: A Beach, a Body and a Lifetime of Secrets
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End of the Road?: Penguin Special
On Warne
The Deserted Newsroom: Penguin Special
The Office
Spheres Of Influence
The Vincibles
The Ashes 2009
Inside Out
The Racket
Asbestos House
The Uncyclopedia
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Green Is The New Black
The Murder of Allison Baden-Clay
All-American Murder
Red Notice
Mr Nice
The Monster of Florence
Breaking Vegas
Good Cop, Bad War
The Shepherd's Bush Murders
Lethal Force
Remembering Anita Cobby
The Dirty Game
In Pursuit of the Truth
One of the Family
The Secret Train Robber