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Birth Marks (Hannah Wolfe, #1)
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Birth Marks (Hannah Wolfe #1)

3.32 of 5 stars 3.32  ·  rating details  ·  350 ratings  ·  42 reviews
In Birth Marks, private investigator Hannah Wolfe gets a case worthy of the great detective novels she so admires. At first glance, this one doesn't fit the bill: she's asked to find a missing ballet dancer, Carolyn Hamilton. When Carolyn's body is fished out of the Thames, stones in her pockets and an eight-month-old fetus in her belly, the police think it's a no-brainer: ...more
Paperback, 230 pages
Published February 22nd 2005 by Scribner (first published 1991)
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It started out really well, subtle and smart puns interwoven with the narrative to tell more about the heroine and comment on the world. For the main part of the book it then reminded me of Val McDermid's novels, perhaps less emotionally engaging (no laughs or worries). The fly in the ointment was the slightly offensive assurance that all women had to think about babies, which got worse towards the end when her brother in law's opinion of Hannah being afraid of men and pining after an ex-boyfrie ...more
I was ready. for a good solid mystery. In the beginning that seemed to be the case, but our sleuth, Hannah Wolfe, is so self obsessed, that she doesn't see what is right in front of her. I also got sick of Hannah's quasi sarcastic, bellicose tone. Is it really necessary for a private detective to be anti social, devoid of empathy? I have not read any of the other Hannah Wolfe mysteries, and I don't feel inclined to do so, because the protagonist is such a whiner. Writing in the first person sing ...more
I was so disappointed in this because I have really enjoyed some of Sarah Dunant's other novels. She does seem to be inconsistent as a writer, though, with both hits and misses. Birth of Venus is one of my all time favorites and everyone in our book club loved it. This one is definitely a miss. The narrative reads like a high school play. The main character's mental dialogue is so overworked with caustic "humor" that it wore me out. The plot was fine, but I won't be reading another Hannah Wolfe ...more
Nancy Oakes
Birth Marks is first in a series of mysteries to feature Hannah Wolfe, private investigator.

Hannah Wolfe is hired to find a missing young woman named Carolyn Hamilton. Carolyn had been studying most of her life to become a ballet dancer, and she was most fortunate that a Miss Patrick had taken her on when she was young; Carolyn's family could not have otherwise afforded to help her realize her dancing talent potential. Carolyn left for London, and each week would send Miss Patrick a postcard to
Hannah Wolfe (“a lonely, broke, female private eye on the wrong side of thirty”) is hired to find a missing person, a young ballet dancer called Carolyn Hamilton. She’s hired by Carolyn’s benefactor and stand-in mother, Miss Patrick, her own mother not interested in her dancing ambitions and that sets up one of the key themes for the book. When Carolyn’s pregnant body is found, a suicide victim, Hannah’s detecting leads her from seedy dance clubs to France and the powerful boss of an aviation co ...more
Christian Belz
Brilliant! Love Hannah Wolfe,the English detective. Emotional, not quite confident enough, and yet determined to find the truth. She's hilarious. I enjoyed the English colloquialisms too.
Very disappointing. I figured out what Carolyn was doing in Paris long before Hannah did; I figure out who David was long before Hannah did; and so on.
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I took this on vacation with me, along with the next two Hannah Wolfe books, Flatlands and Under My Skin. I am now half-way through the third. I don't find these to be especially well-written, especially when I compare them to Dunant's Birth of Venus. Hannah Wolfe is a bit of an emotional bull in a china shop - inept in love and crime, and proud of it, until she magically solves the crime; the love remains unsolved, but I have little sympathy for her. That said, I've grown to like her more and m ...more
Dawn Adams
Clever mystery with an interesting twist!
This was a well-written book but I just didn't feel engaged with the story. I am not sure why, actually. The mystery wasn't particularly urgent/enthralling but I have read worse. The stream of consciousness, a little choppy, with random revelations about the main character that never quite gave a real picture of the whole. But, again, I have read worse. I guess I just never warmed to the main character. I will try another book, there are only 3 of these after all. And I still prefer an English m ...more
I'm not much for crime novels, and I'd never read a British crime novel before this one. I must say, however, that Birth Marks really held my interest. I am constantly amazed by the craft of writing. Keeping together all of those details, providing foreshadowing that the reader will only discover later, and tying it all up into a neat conclusion (most of the time) seems an altogether arduous and incredible feat of magic to me. This novel really provides all of that. Well done, Sarah Dunant. I' ...more
This was a typical detective story, written in the clichéd style everyone knows and recognizes immediately, even if you have not read a single detective story in your life. Pretty much everything was by the book in this book (pun intended), depending on your viewpoint that can be either a positive or negative. As a story it was okay, but nothing memorable - I will probably forget it in a few days. If you are a crime story fan, I would not recommend this to you; if you have not read many of these ...more
This book is a complete departure from Sarah Dunant's The Birth of Venus, which I loved. It was written in the early nineties, so in terms of technology, it is a little dated. I admired the main character's persistance and the fact that she would let someone know where she was going rather than charging blindly into potentially dangerous situations. She is funny, with a self deprecating sense of humor. I will definitely read the second book, Fatlands, to discover how the author developes the cha ...more
Maria (Ri)
I finished this one last night. It has taken me almost 2 weeks to get through it due to pregnancy brain, opening a naturopathic medical practice and moving to a new house! I only had some sleepy moments at night to read. Overall, it was OK, but some parts were a bit confusing for my slow brain! Sarah Dunant's style is much more subtle and literary than say, Janet Evanovich's. I will definitely give her other books a try, maybe once I have the capacity to focus for more than 5 sleepy minutes at a ...more
Shan O
Birth Marks is an intelligent crime novel with a not-so-predictable female investigator in the lead. The plot was slightly forced in a few spots, but the book was very enjoyable and not quite as pulpy as most contemporary detective fiction is. If you like Dunant's Hannah Wolfe series, try her historical fiction, too--it also surpasses most of what's available in the genre these days. I recommend The Birth of Venus and In the Company of the Courtesan.
Aug 13, 2008 Allison rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Allison by: Kristin Roemhildt
A friend suggested this book to me, because I like the Janet Evanovich books about Stephanie Plum. Indeed there were many similarities between the main characters, and the style of writing the author used. It was a good book, and I enjoyed it. It wasn't quite an easy of a read as Janet Evanovich, nor as humorus, but it was a good mystery, with intrigue, suspense, and witty characters.

I began to read this while traveling across
country to NYC and it kept me occupied through flight delays, luggage mishaps and
car pick-up problems. The heroine is quite
sassy and likeable and the writing good. The
London and Paris settings were very well
realized. I did see the cause/probable solution to the murder very early, but I will still read another in this series.

I may have read this ages and ages ago, but really enjoyed it. The main character, Hannah Wolfe is smart and resourceful, and the mystery--that of a young pregnant woman apparently dead of suicide--keeps unraveling until the very end. I liked that structure to the story; the more hannah found out, the more questions she had. I will continue reading this series.
Apr 01, 2008 Sunni rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: mystery lovers, who like women detectives
Shelves: mystery
I enjoyed this as a lighter mystery. (Lighter as in "not dark" not as in the literary sense.) The action and murder is no where near as intense as those by my favorite mystery writer, Carol O'Connell. The heroine is well-written but not as engaging to me as the one in Jan Burke's novels. I could readily see it as a BBC mystery and would enjoy watching it.
This was ok. The writing style was a little choppy. Sometimes I wasn't able to tell if she was speaking or thinking to herself. The main character was very likeable and had a cheeky sense of humor. I do look forward to reading the next in the series.
Apr 06, 2009 Suzanne rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Krista, Jennifer, Emily
Recommended to Suzanne by: M is for Mystery Club
Shelves: mysteries
I'd give this mystery 3.5 stars if I could. I really liked it - nice, complex mystery that kept me guessing until the end. I love the british sense of humor and very much liked Hannah Wolfe, PI. I'll definitely be checking out the next books in the series.
Sara Burns
It was not what i expected it to be. The plot was a bit slow. It had some good story lines about the PI and her tracking the story. However, it was written in the old English and some of the grammar and work spellings drove me nuts as I read.
Andy Plonka
I've never read any of Dunants mysteries but, having read this one, I feel obliged to hunt up her other ones. A clever mystery as well as being a Literate one. Hannah Wolfe is quite the enterprising investigator.
Courtney Blaisdell
over all, it was a good book, yet the style of writing made it hard for me, personally to get threw. Not the story line, just the style. I also felt like the ending could ahve been wraped up a bit better
Susan Shea
I liked her detective books a lot - sorry she decided to shift to historical fiction. These are worth looking for - a little darker than a lot of women PI novels, original settings and crimes.
Penny Gumbel
It's hard to believe this was written by the same woman who wrote "The Birth of Venus". I think the plot may have been good; however I got so bogged down in the language.
1990s; female British police detective; feminist work / life themes -- very "Prime Suspect", which I love. I love Ms. Dunant's other books, too; this one just fell flat with me.
Dunant hit her stride about halfway through this. Then Hannah found her voice and hooked me with it.

Toddling off to put the next Hannah Woolfe in my Amazon shopping cart.
I really loved Dunant's The Birth of Venus. This was a completely different genre: a mystery and an original one. I'll most likely read another Hannah Wolfe mystery.
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aka Peter Dunant (with Peter Busby)
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Other Books in the Series

Hannah Wolfe (3 books)
  • Fatlands (Hannah Wolfe, #2)
  • Under My Skin (Hannah Wolfe, #3)
The Birth of Venus In the Company of the Courtesan Sacred Hearts Blood & Beauty: The Borgias Mapping the Edge

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