Perhaps after this book, I'll move on to authors with no ties to Australia. We'll see.
This police procedural was one I read about on Kim's Reading Matters blog and indeed, it was a good one. The story is set in 2008 just as the financial meltdown was occurring while the two small coast towns in Western Australia where the action occurs were booming because of nickel mining. Two murders occur within a few days of each other bringing a raft of policemen to these little towns where even a good cup of coffee is hard to come by.
Most of the policemen are flawed, though they were not the stock characters of many police procedurals (overweight, marriage ending, world-weary, non-communicative). There's Tess, who landed in this backwater after she was nearly beaten to death. Cato, a former boyfriend of hers is part of the contingent who arrives after the murder. The storyline is complex: it has two plots which converge at the end in a satisfying way.
For me it is the language that makes this book. I love the way Australians are all about the nickname, shortening the long ones, lengthening the short ones. The two towns are Hopetoun and Ravensthorpe, known mostly as Hopey and Ravy. Sunglasses are sunnies. Starvation Bay is Starvo. And then there are the names themselves given by settlers: Barren Ranges, Starvation Bay, Barren Pastures. The last one gives the opportunity for a good laugh:
South, the creeping expanse of Hopetoun reaching towards the peace and serenity of country life, as fetchingly represented on the advertising boarding which reared above them: Live the dream in Barren Pastures.
I loved Tess' thoughts about her first encounter with her former boyfriend Cato:
True, he had raised the subject when they were out on the groyne but it was obviously on his TO DO list between BUY TOOTHPASTE and SOLVE MURDER. Item 6: Make Tess Miraculously Forget that I'm a Bastard Because I Left Her and Still Haven't Told Her Why. Tick. Sorted.
One character, thinking about one of the policeman describes him this way:
He was a brusque wanker and a bit of a clock-watcher but he was the only thing on offer. Jenny's sister had died just over two years ago and they had even less contact with the wanker-in-law these days.
One of the smarmy mine owners is reacting to the revelations of how badly mine workers are treated, says,
"Of course we care about our employees and we always aim to do the best by them. But this is the real world, the show must go on. Death? All part of the circle of life, I think someone once said." "Simba," said Jim Buckley. "What?" Both Cato and Yelland turned to look at him. "The Lion King," he announced confidently.
Alan Carter, Prime Cut, Fremantle Press, 2011, 320 pages (I read the Kindle version).