Paradise by Patricia Wolf

Reviewed by Rod McLary

There are many crime novel series – some now classics of the genre – in which there is a continuing protagonist and the reader can enjoy reading about his or her exploits from one book to the next.  The protagonist may be a detective like Commander Adam Dalgleish, a forensic pathologist like Dr Kay Scarpetta or a police officer like Constable Nell Buchanan.  Whomever they are and whatever their skills, in the hands of a good author they have the capacity to engage the reader not only as the ‘crime solver’ but as a real person with all the qualities one would expect.

In this second book by Australian author Patricia Wolf – subtitled ‘A DS Walker Thriller’ – Detective Sergeant Lucas Walker of the Australian Federal Police is sent to the Gold Coast to train Queensland police officers while he waits for the outcome of a review of his conduct in a previous case.  That case is the focus of the author’s previous book OutbackParadise is clearly the second in a developing series and, based on its quality so far, it promises to be an enduring and exciting series.

DS Walker is an engaging protagonist – not only a skilled and experienced investigator but one with personal qualities which make him very human and relatable.  His grandmother has recently died and there are references to her and her importance to Lucas scattered through the book; there are also references to his half-sister Grace who lives in the United States.  These asides do not detract in any way from the primary narrative but add a depth to Lucas’ character which is quite endearing.

But of course, it is the crime and its resolution which is the real focus of Paradise.  There are two strands – the first is the murder of a young mother and the attempted murder of her daughter.  Her husband is a well-respected sports doctor who is tied up and ‘assaulted’ while his wife is killed.  The second is drug trafficking and dealing and all the violence and corruption which goes along with it.  There are links here with the previous case and with the town from where Lucas comes.  As is often the case with drugs, there is a corrupt police officer, an undercover police officer, and a couple of small-time players who mistakenly believe they can deal with drugs on the side and be untouched by the associated violence and corruption.  Are the two crimes linked?  That remains to be seen.

Relatively early in the narrative, the leader of the local cartel and his enforcers decide that Lucas has to be killed or the whole venture will be destroyed.  This adds considerable tension to the ensuing action as we – the readers – know what is being planned but Lucas doesn’t.  Remember that frisson of excitement and fright that we felt as kids when we could see the big bad wolf coming up behind the children innocently eating their sandwiches in the forest?

Patricia Wolf has crafted a crime novel and a protagonist which falls perfectly within the ‘outback noir’ – that genre of crime novels distinctly Australian which melds landscape and plot to create a feeling of remoteness enhanced by the extremes of weather, distance and a small population.  Set on the Gold Coast, this novel describes the heat, humidity, a huge storm and the ocean in all its moods to create an atmosphere which is undoubtedly Australian.  The passage below which captures the build-up to a thunderstorm is typical of the author’s immersion of the narrative in the landscape:

The air is soupy with humidity, the heat viscous, something you have to push through.  Clouds are gathering, shades of grey and black.  The pavement on Cavill Avenue is steaming, heat rising as he walks, the palm trees and spindly pines shivering in the wind. [71]

This is a novel which almost demands to be read in one sitting – it is difficult to put it down especially when the narrative approaches its denouement.  If there is one quibble to be had, it would be the slight overuse of that peculiarly Australian saying ‘yeah, nah’.  Do we really say it as often as it appears in the book?

But that aside, Paradise is a book which can sit comfortably beside other masterful proponents of the genre – Jane Harper, Chris Hammer, Emma Viskic to name just a few.  It is an exciting read and the three-dimensional character of the protagonist Lucas Walker is finely drawn.

Well recommended.

Paradise

[2023]

by Patricia Walker

Echo Publishing

ISBN 978 176068 868 4

$32.99; 368pp

 

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