Shock Waves by Fleur McDonald

Reviewed by Wendy Lipke

Fleur McDonald first introduced readers to Detective Dave Burrows in the early 2000s when he was the main character in her novel. Since then, he has appeared as a secondary character in sixteen contemporary novels. In this story, Shock Waves, he is the main character but at a time when he is being divorced from his first wife and his children were still very small. Not long ago I read another of McDonald’s books where Detective Dave Burrows had remarried, and his oldest daughter was about to get married.

In this novel he is about to step up and fill the void while his friend and partner, Detective Sergeant Bob Holden, is having treatment for melanoma. However, Bob cannot stay away from work and needs to do something to occupy his mind during this time. The two decide to take a two-day trip to check on some of the abattoirs out from Perth to ensure all protocols are in place. But had they taken on too much for a man under chemo treatment. Chapter one suggests that this was not going to be the quiet time away they all believed it would be.

In stories like this I find the many characters far more interesting than the crime that has been committed and how the police solve it. What motivates people to do what they do? Are they inherently evil or have they been driven to act in a certain way by the hand life has dealt them?

The main story involves the two policemen as they embark on their road trip. During their drive much is revealed about their past association and their individual history for readers who may not have read any of the earlier books. For both, this is a trying time in their life yet the bond between them is very strong. Soon they find themselves caught up in investigation of the small country town bombing of the shire building housing several government departments.

There are several storylines within this book which could point to a culprit. There is talk of bikies but not the friendly ones who did toy runs for disadvantaged kids, farmers who have battled the elements and faced hardship and loss through devastating diseases and young lives lost too soon leaving others suffering from the tragedy.

Although towards the end of the story, the reader sees the words ‘around the burning vehicle, the air vibrated, sending shock waves through the atmosphere’ (329) linking the story to the title of the book, I began to wonder if there might be other situations in the book that could also have a close link to the title.

There is the shock of seeing a strong, larrikin detective and father figure go through chemo treatment and the fear when wondering how many more times Dave would be able to refer to his friend as ‘my partner’ (292). Even if he did respond well to the chemo, recovery would take months. There is the shock of the bombing in a small town and concern that a similar crime might be perpetrated elsewhere in the state. I liked the reference to the children’s story of Henny Penny – when the building was bombed it gave a different meaning to the words ‘the sky is falling’ (87).

When tragic, unexpected deaths occur, the shock waves affect those left behind who find it hard to move on and are often left with deep hurt and anger as they try to find someone to blame. Shock waves are also felt with knowing you could end up in gaol for carrying out activities on your own land, especially when other family members wholly rely on you for their everyday needs. And there are the shock waves of realising that a marriage has finally ended and that the father may never get the chance to see his two daughters grow up.

I guess with all these scenarios the title of Fleur McDonald’s latest book is apt.

There is much in this novel to interest most readers. Although Fleur McDonald usually writes about strong women from the outback, her readers have come to love her character of Detective Dave Burrows so much, she has written a series of books with him as her principal character. Dave came into being when she wrote her first novel Red Dust, and she didn’t know then what a lasting character he was going to be. He’s tough, loyal, full of integrity, but he doesn’t mind bending the rules to get the ‘right-justice’ outcome. Even though this set of books are in a series, they are stand alone and able to be read out of order.

Fleur McDonald continues to keep to her routine of producing two books per year.

Shock Waves


by Fleur McDonald

Allen & Unwin


$32.99; 352pp


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