Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
For devotees of Fleur McDonald, the novel, Without a Doubt, may cause a slight confusion as the key character, detective Dave Burrows, has featured in many of her other books and in this one, things readers have previously learned about Dave, don’t seem to fit. The author explains this by clarifying that she produces two different groups of books. Those published in November have strong women as the main characters. Although the story line may also contain the character Dave Burrows, they are set in the present.
Novels from the new series, which have Dave Burrows as the principal character, are published in April and are set in the late 1990s and early 2000s when Dave is starting out on his career as a detective who has a goal of joining the stock squad. This is the second book in this series, following Fools Gold which was published in April 2018 and although it links to the first book it can also be read as a stand-alone book, which is how this reviewer experienced it.
Married with one child, Dave and his wife are posted to outback Western Australia. While Dave revels in the experience, his wife Melinda cannot adjust to being so remote from her friends and family. When she returns to the coast, Dave is given the opportunity to go undercover to investigate a mysterious death and suspected cattle duffing operation.
This book begins with Dave’s family dynamics and a person missing in the harsh environment of Western Australia. The reader is also introduced to the various members of the Highwaymen Mustering Mob. The beginning of this novel did not grab me as I would have liked and when a body is found in Queensland which the reader knew was one of the mustering team, I found I had to go back and re-read the beginning of the book to find out where this character fitted into the scheme of things. This was probably because there were so many new characters appearing all at once. There were two main towns as part of the storyline in this book and although it was clear that the principal town was in Western Australia it was not clear that the second town was, in fact, in Queensland. This caused some confusion for me.
However, once Dave went undercover, everything fell into place and the tempo of the novel improved greatly. As the case of the missing person in Western Australia was resolved the author highlighted a characteristic of policing which is rarely seen, that of social worker, in which Dave’s partner, Spencer, excels.
Fleur McDonald ‘s books, of which she has sold over 500,000 copies, have earned her the title of The Voice of the Outback. Having lived on farms similar to the areas where she sets her novels, her characters are inspired by the tough, complex and genuine people she has met during her lifetime and this gives them authenticity. The remoteness of some of these areas is also fertile ground for those who wish to benefit themselves often at the expense of others. In this book it is the mustering crew and those associated with them. These can be ruthless people as shown in this story.
Although the beginning of the book, for me, was a bit disappointing the ending left me wanting to know how things were going to work out in this detective’s personal life and more importantly, having survived a situation where he had just managed to prevent his own death, was he going to be safe into the future. There has to be another novel where these issues are clarified, so I look forward to seeing the next book in the Detective Dave Burrows series.
Fleur McDonald is an accomplished writer with a clear understanding of the human psyche especially as it pertains to outback Australia. I would highly recommend this book, Without a Doubt.
Allen & Unwin
ISBN: 9 781760 633158