Reviewed by Wendy Lipke
For those readers who enjoy the intricacies of solving a crime, Lee Christine’s latest book, Crackenback, is a puzzle worth investigating. The author has followed police procedures and investigative knowledge to gather information from a diverse range of places and situations. Each new piece of relevance is revealed until the reader believes that they themselves can weave together what has happened and what is likely to happen. But they are still not sure.
The documentation of the activities of Detective Sergeant Pierce Ryder and his team from Police Headquarters, Parramatta, on the Hutton case, is meticulous. The reader becomes a silent observer, in the car, as the detectives travel, where needed, for each piece of information.
The character descriptions of the key players are such that the readers begin to feel that they know them personally – from the bubbly, outgoing French museum employee with ‘her lolly-pink hair shining under the lights’ (120) and ‘tattooed eyebrows’ (121), to the hard- working Detective Flowers, called Daisy by his colleagues who has a penchant for unusual drinks such as turmeric latte and sleep tea and the more serious Detective Sergeant.
When Eva Belle, manager of the Golden Wattle Lodge finds herself confronted by a tall, scruffy bearded man with his face concealed by an oversized hood and blood caked on his jacket, who locked the door behind him, took her mobile and yanked the landline from its socket, the reader can feel the fear emanating from Eva.
There is tension and fear from the first page of this novel which begins in the Philippines with a hostage situation. The main character, in this situation is not identified, except for the fact that we believe him to be one of the hostages. ‘Weeks have passed since their captors were last here, and he has no way of knowing if progress has been made’ (1). ‘He looks up. A blinding beam of light arcs through the air then crashes into his temple…A hoarse scream. Somewhere…A shot rings out in the darkness’ (3).
The story then switches to three years later when the Parramatta police have arrested the Charlotte Pass killer but have had no success with the Hutton case. Hutton is believed to be a serial killer. People in the area are aware of this situation. It is off season in the Snowy, so there are few people around. Even the weather helps in maintaining the feelings of menace- ‘Out on Crackenback Drive, the visibility was so poor he switched on the fog lights and put the car in snow mode for better traction’ (176). Reference to the Thredbo landslide, added to the drama as did the police roadblock and a warning ‘we believe there’s a wanted criminal in the area’ (192).
As each piece of information is collected it becomes clear that what is happening in the present has close links to the Philippine’s hostage situation. Who was killed then? Who is doing the killing now?
For the reader who likes a little romance in their storyline, they will not be disappointed. The father of Eve’s daughter returns but will he stay? Eve’s sister, Vanessa, is linked romantically with Detective Ryder. Those who have read previous books by this author will be familiar with her as she featured in an earlier novel, Charlotte Pass.
Lee Christine is the Australian author of six romantic suspense novels and Charlotte Pass was her first crime novel. Her latest, Crackenback, is published in February 2021. I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the characters in this story and look forward to meeting them again. They became very real to me.
by Lee Christine
Allen & Unwin