Review ‘The Man in the Water’ by David Burton

David Burton has written an outstanding story about a tenacious young man determined to solve a mystery.  In a tightly woven and highly readable plot he keeps the pressure up, and keeps it real.  Shaun sees a man’s body floating in the local lake and when he returns with Constable Charlie Thompson the body has gone.  The story kicks off from there and Shaun begins to investigate the mysterious death.  He uncovers far more than he ever imagined.  And he has a good imagination!

Set in a gritty, rundown Queensland coal mining town, the atmosphere is hot, dry and pulsating with undercurrents from personal relationships through to shonky mining regulations.  My assumptions were overturned, clues were flipped and hopes were dashed.  From angry picket lines headed by volatile Peter Grant, head of the mine workers union, to various forms of small town mindset, Shaun’s investigations pull him deeper and deeper into a world of unanswered questions.

Coal Mining Coal TruckThe subtext throughout the story is “Who believes Shaun actually saw the man in the water?”.  Not many people, it seems.  Even his mother Linda struggles to accept the situation, although a family death may be clouding her reasoning.  Shaun does appear to have a kind of obsessional limerence.

Fortunately Shaun has a keen ally in his long-time friend Will, a larrikin with a charming manner.  They both believe the drowned man was murdered and someone has masterminded a cover-up.  They negotiate their way through a minefield of possibilities, taking risks, and discovering the mental and physical challenges faced by coal workers and their families.  Only once did I suspend disbelief when Shaun infiltrates a building, but it’s a pivotal moment.

In between covert operations, annoying teachers and school classes, Shaun and Will are on the school debating team with Megan Grant.  Shaun adores Megan from afar and he imagines a future of “happy ever afters” together.  Investigations continue in Brisbane with their debating team when a challenge is held in a Harry Potteresque private school perched on a hillside (I recognised it) and they stay overnight in enemy territory.  A gripping spy-like chapter for you to discover.

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I loved the personalities David Burton has created, the characters often did the opposite to what I expected, making them fallible yet understandable.  In certain cases, there’s a fine line between liking and loathing.  There is power in subtlety, and from the frustration of workers about to lose their jobs, to the death of a loved one, nothing is overstated.

David Burton has given Shaun a proactive role with plenty of intrigue.  I have no hesitation in saying “The Man in the Water” is an excellent mystery for young adults and older readers.  I became fully absorbed in the story and was right beside young Shaun trying to unravel the riddle.  The end result is definitely worth it!

Quote from Chapter 32 “From the sky, Shaun’s home town looked like it was surrounded by yawning black holes.  It was epic.  The mines were colossal dark wounds in the earth, the town a sort of defiance among the rubble.  It was a god’s sandpit.  He pressed his face against the window and watched as the earth turned with the plane.  They were coming in to land.”

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


AUTHOR PROFILE

David Burton Writer and Playwright
David Burton, Author and Playwright

David Burton is an award-winning director, playwright and author.  By the age of 30, he’d written over two dozen professionally produced plays, published a book, and been a core part of some of the most innovative theatrical projects in Australia.

He’s now 32, a Dad, and has written a new YA fiction book “The Man in the Water” which I reviewed.

Visit http://www.daveburton.com.au/

Booktopia https://www.booktopia.com.au/the-man-in-the-water-david-burton/book/9780702262524.html

Walk in the Cemetery

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Do you occasionally go Goth and take a walk in the cemetery?

It has long been a source of comfort to me when I’m in a depressed mood.

Whether it’s the tranquillity, the otherworldliness or the bees buzzing in the freshly laid flowers, I couldn’t say.  The grass, not quite a lawn, is comfortable to walk on.

I can think melancholy thoughts because I am walking able-bodied through the cemetery, reasonably intact for my age, wearing casual clothes and a sunhat, clutching my water bottle and car keys.

In front of me, the carved headstones, sinking marble slabs and rusty iron railings hold a certain olde worlde charm but tell of sadness and loss and neglect.

It has been several months since my last visit and I notice new gravestones.  It is a hard heart that is not moved by the chisel-etched lettering.  The rows of columbarium niches.  Or newly turned earth.

My gloominess shifts, alternating between being surrounded by absolute endings and ongoing beginnings.  Generations moving forward, carrying the same blood in their veins––until it too drains away.

I chide myself for forgetting to bring flowers when I see a child’s name on a temporary cross.  My memories race to another place, my heart-broken mother lying across the back seat of the car, weeping tears which splash onto the vinyl seating.  Inconsolable grief beyond my young understanding but I knew my brother had gone.

We know death hovers over us for many different reasons.  We ignore, we forestall, but when the time comes we construct memorials to the deceased and monuments to the power of death.

Like my favourite mausoleum.

It had rained in the night, the scent of pungent eucalyptus leaves all around, and I can see the sides of the stone mausoleum are still damp.

Small patches of brown and green mould creep around the edges of a large, tightly sealed wooden door with solid metal hinges and no handle.  Not even a lock.  A firm statement of eternity for those entombed within.  Unless it’s a cenotaph.  Either way, I don’t think anyone will answer my knock.

I see this edifice as an art form of some complexity.  Not knowing anything about it, no name or plaque to give an inkling of tenure, I feel neither fear nor intimidation, and am certainly not in awe of its size and prominence on the hillside.

The roof is domed.  An off-white marble angel stands in prayer on the top, miraculously intact given the damage to smaller, equally virtuous angel statues set around the outer walls.  Lower down, straggly weeds mingle with intricately carved flowers which appear to sprout from the earthworks.

A mosaic frieze, rendered in ceramic tile and glass fragments, encircles all four walls.  Some parts twinkle and glisten, most are dull.  I can never work out if it depicts a religious theme or the life of a prosperous family.  Ah, entwined I think.

The worn stone step beneath the sturdy door looks unsafe and ready to crumble at the slightest shoe pressure.  Clearly not the original bluestone foundation slab.  The breeze picks up and two withered plants on either side of the gravel pathway shiver and shake like baby rattles.

I glance skyward as the afternoon sun is covered by streaks of sombre cloud.  It doesn’t take much imagination to realise this resting place would look forbidding by night.  I am unsettled.  Those dark hours would be a step too far.

After completing my circuit, I gather myself, my mind, my accoutrements and I am ready to acknowledge the towering obelisk stationed at the gate.  Did it sway?  I politely thank its ebony magnificence and amble out to the carpark.

So, why is this cemetery connected to me?  Will I end up here?  Can I conceive of the idea of me ending up here?

I cannot conceive of me ending up here, the thought is unmanageable, bizarre even.

Which is why I like a quiet walk in the cemetery.  I breathe the fresh air and rejoice in the fact that today I can.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


Gretchen, I would like to thank you, on behalf of the Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival and Bipolar Scotland, for taking the time to write and submit your work to the writing competition for the 2019 Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival. Your contribution to the competition was very much appreciated. Unfortunately, on this occasion, your work was not chosen for our shortlist. Chief Executive, Bipolar Scotland.

Down to the Cemetery
2009 © Kid Sam

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Come back from the mirror it distracts your thoughts
Take off your dark glasses leave them on the floor
Turn off the television and put down the phone and
Burn the magazines you read when you’re alone

Let’s go down to the cemetery
Let’s go down to the cemetery
Let’s go down to the cemetery
Let’s go down

In the dead out of the city there’s a place I know that
Everyone ignores and people never go
All streets lead there so we’ll find our way
And when we get there you do not have to be afraid

They’re diggin’ our graves but while they work
Let’s laugh at them cause all of it is so absurd
Let’s go dancin’ there above the dead
Oh let’s celebrate that we’re not yet

Let’s go down to the cemetery
Let’s go down to the cemetery
Let’s go down to the cemetery
Let’s go…

Hold my breath feel that it is warm
But it is temporary baby it will soon be gone
Take a handful of dust and throw it in the air what
You once were you will be again

So when we’re gone let’s two graves together
By the tree that rises tall and brave
And those who are still livin’ out their birth we’ll go
Dancin’ over our small patch of earth

Let’s go down to the cemetery
Let’s go down to the cemetery
Let’s go down to the cemetery
Let’s go down.

https://www.letssingit.com/kid-sam-lyrics-down-to-the-cemetery-k1f7vtz

 

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.
Amen.