Reviewed by Ian Lipke
This book was written to acknowledge “the experiences of children deemed by their adults as unworthy – of respect, of nurturing, of protection” (295). So says the author in the acknowledgments section. Knowing that information makes it a little easier to understand why the author chose the crimes that appear in the story. They are unusual in kind and gruesome in nature.
The new man in Owens’s life (her description) is Detective Jake Hunter. While I realise that Hunter wanted a posting to the Tasmanian countryside, there is no early record of from where he was transferred. At first, a secondment from the Victoria Police seemed a possibility but there was no specific evidence to suggest that. There was a reference to the comparatively slick operation of the Melbourne Forensics people on page 16. It was page 154 before the matter was put to rest, but then not completely since his senior officer talked of Hobart giving approval for Jake Hunter’s Melbourne trip. Maybe he is newly arrived from Hobart – the point is moot.
The story is an investigation into the murder of a former headmistress of a children’s home. The author wanted to make a point and chose a way that in my view was counter-productive. The activities of some of the adults in the story are likely to drive people away, people who in all honesty see no reason why their lives should be interfered with by graphic images. The male characters are presented as mentally defective almost. It is as though the author believes that her characters are stereotypical Tasmanian. I cannot believe that to be the case; it is the impression I am left with. Another author may have presented them in a much more subtle way. Some of the women are as bestial as the men so that I have had to ask myself why. I think the answer lies in the quote that opens this review.
By contrast with the villains, the lead detective Jake Hunter is a more rounded character than any other. He knows his job, is experienced in conducting investigations, is sensitive when dealing with young people, much more so than the official holder of the role of counsellor. What’s more, he goes out of his way to attempt the training of his brainless constable. Just where his love interest lies, with the girlfriend he left behind or with another one or even two ladies, is just a little confusing.
As for the identity of the murderer, my suspicions were raised extremely early in the book and confirmed not much later. It remained only to think about the ancillary crimes and work out who might have committed those. The chief drawback in this book is that the author tries too hard to make a point of acknowledging the problems young people face and the self-centred ways adults ignore them. The character Amelia made this point very well: “You don’t have to understand why, or how, or anything like that. Just hear what I’m saying” (158).
This is not my sort of novel, but hey! maybe it is yours. Give it a go!
By L. J. M. Owen