1 November 2008

Review: THE UNQUIET NIGHT, Patricia Carlon

Text Publishing, 2002, ISBN 1-877008-36-2, 215 pages
Originally published 1965

Another contribution to Pattinase's Friday's Forgotten Books theme, but this book, by a largely forgotten Australian author, is still readily available in Australia.

Martin Deerford killed his companion in a moment of anger. He picked Rose up in town when she was loitering near the bus stop. They went out to the park near the lake on his scooter, but then things went horribly wrong. She'd begun carping at him when she realised all he wanted to do was talk. And that's when he'd strangled her. He hadn't meant to do it. All his efforts to revive her failed and he finally rolled her body into the lake. It was when he blundered back to the motor scooter that he'd noticed the woman and the child. The little girl was quite intent on what she was doing and didn't notice him watching her. But then he realised the woman was watching him.

As the man stumbled away, the rain came, and Rachel scooped up her niece and their picnic things, and they rushed back to their car. As Martin goes on his way, riding his scooter home in the heavy downpour, he realises that when Rose's body is discovered, the woman he has just left will be able to describe him. His mind clutches at straws in panicky excitement, imagining what will happen once Rose is reported missing. That's when he realises he will have to find the woman and the little girl and at least deal with the woman.

There is no doubt about the novel's Australian setting, whether you consider the language used (blokes and sheilas), or the descriptions of the landscape. It is also rather obviously set in an era that has passed, where women had stiffly lacquered hair, wore twin sets, men rode scooters, and the Australian currency was pounds, shillings and pence. The last clearly puts it pre-1966, but I didn't feel that the plot or the writing style had dated.

The tension in THE UNQUIET NIGHT builds and builds. There is a series of episodes when the reader with the superior knowledge that comes from having been omnipresent could almost scream as the characters don't realise the consequences of what they are doing, or rather, the consequences of what they are not doing. I found it a very enjoyable read and rated it at 4.7.

Patricia Carlon (1927-2002) was an Australian author, who wrote everything from stories and serials to short and long novels. Her work was published in Australia, England and the US under various names in newspapers and magazines, including Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Unfortunately for most of her life, her success as an author was not recognised in Australia, but 14 of her mystery novels were published in the UK between 1961 and 1970.

Her crime fiction novels
Both THE UNQUIET NIGHT and CRIME OF SILENCE are available from Text Publishing, and on their site will find more details about her. You will also find reviews of her all novels at Australian Crime Fiction.

THE SOUVENIR and THE WHISPERING WALL are both available from the Wakefield Press,

The other one that I have read and really enjoyed was THE WHISPERING WALL
60 year old Sarah Oatland has had a stroke and is laid out in her bed 'like a fish on a slab' having lost the ability to speak or move. And then the walls begin to talk. Sarah hears occupants of the house plan a murder and there is nothing she can do to tell anybody about it or to warn the victim. Or is there?… This is an ingenious story, an Australian classic that has weathered the test of time very well. The style is cosy, but there is also nail-biting tension.
My rating 4.8

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I'm always surprised she never caught on more. Just great plots and writing.


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