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29 August 2010
Review: GUNSHOT ROAD, Adrian Hyland
When Tom McGillivray, superintendent of the Bluebush Police and an old friend of the Tempest clan, came up with some paid employment for Emily as an Aboriginal Community Police Officer, she was happy to accept. The deal was that she would spend a month in Bluebush in training and then she'd be based at Moonlight Downs as its ACPO.
Emily's just come back from a short training course in Darwin in time to catch the tail end of the Bluebush aboriginal community's Young Man's Time. On her way from the women's camp to work she stops and washes off her body art under a garden hose, and dons her oversize police uniform. That in itself seems symbolic, as she attempts to bridge two cultures.
She arrives at work to find that there's been a murder: One oldie has killed another out at Green Swamp Well, and McGillivray is in hospital, his place taken by a new senior sergeant Bruce Cockburn. On their way to the crime scene Emily senses something out of place and discovers a Range Rover that's gone off the road, its occupants spilled into the gully and in need of help.
When they eventually make it to Green Swamp Well, Emily finds that she knows both the victim, and the apparent perpetrator, two eccentrics who had a history of argumentation, but were underneath it all the best of mates.
Emily was never going to get on with Senior Sergeant Cockburn: where he tries to simplify things, she sees complications. Emily's aboriginal background gives her a heightened sense of disturbed balance. He reminds her that she is simply meant to be a liaison officer not an investigator, but Emily really can't help herself.
There is such a lot to like about this book: starting with Emily herself and her unexpected sense of humour, and then there is such a range of interesting and intriguing characters, and description that takes you right into the heart of the outback. I like the way Hyland layers our introduction to people and events. One or two characters from his earlier novel DIAMOND DOVE make an appearance. Emily herself seems more certain of who she is, and she has a status with the locals that I didn't pick up in the earlier novel.
The author says, in the blog post he wrote for Readings:
Takes a little time for the country to get to know you.
It is this world-view, and its ongoing clash with the threshing machine of Western materialism, that lies at the heart of Gunshot Road. I find this conflict utterly compelling, and of great significance;
I have no hesitation in recommending that you find a copy of GUNSHOT ROAD.
My rating: 5.0
Other reviews to check
oz_mystery_readers 2007 best reads list with DIAMOND DOVE with 5 people recommending it. The group discussed it in September when Adrian was the group's guest on Quiz an Author, an event when an author is invited to be an online guest for a week, and questions and answers fly thick and fast. Fresh from being named the Ned Kelly best first fiction novel of the year winner at Melbourne Writers Festival, Adrian was frank and eloquent in his replies and has remained an active member of the list.
DIAMOND DOVE was given a rating of 5 by the members, a rare achievement in itself. The only other book to be given a rating of 5 was RAVEN BLACK by Ann Cleeves.
DIAMOND DOVE has been published in the US as MOONLIGHT DOWNS.
My review of DIAMOND DOVE:
Emily Tempest returns to Moonlight Downs, a scatter of corrugated iron hovels nine hours from Alice Springs out in the spinifex desert, 14 years after leaving to go to secondary school in Adelaide. The daughter of a local miner, Motor Jack, she is welcomed home by Lincoln Flinders, the head of the community. The Moonlight mob have only recently returned to their land themselves. The Moonlight mob are Emily's community by adoption - her mother was a Wantiya woman from the Gulf Country. Unmistakably aboriginal in appearance, Emily has not yet decided which world she belongs to - aboriginal or white. She meets up with Lincoln's daughter Hazel, her best friend in the past. The morning after Emily arrives, Lincoln is found dead, unmistakably murdered, and Emily finds it impossible to rest until she knows who killed him. Adrian Hyland's debut novel. Very polished writing and a feel of authenticity about the setting and customs. I came away feeling I had learnt quite a lot.