8 May 2014

Review: ST KILDA BLUES, Geoffrey McGeachin

Synopsis (Publisher)

Melbourne's first serial killer is at work and only one man can stop him.

It's 1967, the summer of love, and in swinging Melbourne Detective Sergeant Charlie Berlin has been hauled out of exile in the Fraud Squad to investigate the disappearance of a teenage girl, the daughter of a powerful and politically connected property developer. As Berlin's inquiries uncover more missing girls he gets an uneasy feeling he may be dealing with the city's first serial killer.

Berlin's investigation leads him through inner-city discothèques, hip photographic studios, the emerging drug culture and into the seedy back streets of St Kilda. The investigation also brings up ghosts of Berlin's past, disturbing memories of the casual murder of a young woman he witnessed in dying days of WW11.

As in war, some victories come at a terrible cost and Berlin will have to face an awful truth and endure an unimaginable loss before his investigation is over.

ST KILDA BLUES is the third novel in the Charlie Berlin series. Both previous novels, THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL and BLACKWATTLE CREEK, won the Ned Kelly Award for Best Fiction in 2011 and 2013 respectively.


My Take

There is such an assured hand behind these crime fiction novels from Australian author Geoffrey McGeachin. There are plenty of historical details to place this novel in 1967, and to anchor it firmly in Melbourne. 

It is twenty years since the first novel in the series and Charlie's son Peter has gone into the army, and his daughter Sarah has gone to Israel to learn more of her Jewish past. Charlie's wife Rebecca has become a well known photographer with her own studio in the CBD. There's plenty in the novel to fill in the details of what has happened in the Berlin family in that twenty years.

While there are those who recognise Detective Sergeant Charlie Berlin's value to the Victorian Police force, there are also those who would love to see him fall flat on his face.

It appears that nine teenage girls have gone have gone missing in Melbourne in the last year. When number 3 was reported Charlie was taken off the case and sidetracked to the Fraud squad. Now somebody has decided that he should take over the investigation again, but on the quiet. The State Premier is Sir Henry Bolte, his own position on a knife edge, and he wants all stops pulled out. Only one of the girls who have gone missing has turned and she was found dead on the shores of the Albert Lake. An observant copper gives Charlie and his offsider Bob Roberts their first clue. 

There is a side story that surfaces in the first half of the novel about a boy who was sent to Australia from the UK shortly after the Second World War, as part of a child emigration scheme. He arrives in Adelaide and is then taken north to a mission station. This is an interesting plot line because the treatment of such children has been the focus of recent investigations, worldwide, into the way children were treated in orphanages. In Australia the investigation has provoked a Royal Commission into Child Abuse.

So there is plenty in this novel for the reader to think about. The historical validity owes a lot to meticulous research, while the principal characters come through loud and clear. There's also a distinctively Australian flavour to the novel.

My rating: 4.9


I've also reviewed
4.4, D-E-D DEAD!
4.8, THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL
4.9, BLACKWATER CREEK 

5 comments:

Margot Kinberg said...

Kerrie - I am so excited for this release. I'm very, very glad you enjoyed it as much as you did. Can't wait to read it myself.

djskrimiblog said...

This one sounds really tempting. It's probably too expensive yet, but I must remember to check him out.

Kathy D. said...

I've been waiting for the next book in this series, as I loved Black Wattle Creek, especially the character development. But also, some of the political background.

This one sounds good.

And, yes, I've read about the sending of so-called British orphans -- actually, children of poor and working women -- to Australia to toil in fields and in factories, kept from their families, etc. It is a horror.

Susan said...

This sounds like a fascinating book. I haven't read any in the series, yet, so thank you for pointing them out. Somehow i missed your earlier reviews. I'm going to see if our library has them, or if they are available up here.

As for the children sent out from WW2 Britain to orphanages - it happened here too, in Canada. The same kind of abuses, too, where many of the orphans were treated as slaves. It is beyond belief, isn't it? And tragic and something that needs to be reconciled.

Kathy D. said...

This happened in the U.S., too. In fact, there is a novel out about this, children sent west to toil in fields, mistreated, ignored, etc., i.e. chattel.

This behavior hasn't totally vanished in the world, unfortunately.

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