The Unbelieved by Vikki Petraitis

Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve

The Unbelieved may be her first fiction book, but Vikki Petraitis has written a crime novel that has all the hallmarks of a writer most accomplished in the genre.

The plot is cleverly shaped, with a web involving fraud, murder and violence.  The setting is a small town, Deception Bay, where the heroine, detective Antigone Pollard, lives in an old Queenslander, and goes running with her dog, Waffles, along the wild rocky coast nearby.  Her fellow policeman, Warren (Wozza) Harvey, is a rare type in Deception Bay – a decent and devoted family man. He is a contrast to the several suspects—all male and lacking respect, especially for women.

The investigation centres on a series of rapes and the victims, drugged and assaulted. It is more urgent when Antigone herself is drugged and then attacked.

Many crime writers take the enclosed approach in constructing their plots. It can be concentrated on a family, neighbours, a small community, a ship, a country house or a resort. This is an excellent device as it allows development of a more detailed insight. Writing in the first person lends an additional layer of reality. Vikki Petraitis is skillful in following this strategy.  Her publisher agrees as she won the inaugural Crime Fiction Prize.

The structure is involved, with a ten-year-old cold case of murder/suicide, a recent unsuccessfully prosecuted rape case In Melbourne, and in Deception Bay currently, a man (or men) spiking girls’ drinks, abducting and raping and murdering them.  There are intimations of fraud and corruption too.

Flashes of humour come with Wheeler, Antigone’s chauvinistic boss, who comes close to exploding with his constantly demonstrated disdain for women.

She gives a salute to Tim Tams, ‘the solution to a difficult moment’.

Waffles, the brave retired police dog, will win many a reader’s heart; as will Daniel, the ex-partner who, tall, blue eyed and handsome, comes to the rescue at a precariously dangerous stage!

Theatre and the media have made the plight of victims of rape a ‘hot topic’, currently.  The Unbelieved makes this central to the plot. The terribly damaging effect of this crime borders on trauma for all – not just the victim herself but family and those involved in the protracted legal process. In the case of the parents of Gemma, the sufferer in the case in Melbourne, they experience the awful gulf that can exist between truth and justice. It exacerbates the tragedy of their daughter’s death.

It is obvious that Vikki Petraitis’ book is not only a compelling crime novel, but it sympathetically highlights an important social issue as well. A near flawless first attempt at crime writing, it is outstanding amongst the multitude of thrillers that already line bookshelves.

The Unbelieved

by Vikki Petraitis

[2022]

Allen and Unwin

ISBN 978 176106 739 6

$32.99; 374pp

 

 

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