This is the perfect crime novel for an imperfect crime. First-time fiction author Margaret Hickey shows she has a superlative grasp on our vast dry landscape and uncomfortable small town atmosphere.
The story of “Cutters End” excels in the finer details, the misleading conversations and chilling moments. While the hitchhiker plot is not new, the way this one is handled is both clever and gripping, and gives certain Australian police procedurals a run for their money.
A series of events conspire to pull Detective Sergeant Mark Ariti out of long service leave and send him inland to Cutters End as an Acting Inspector to investigate the unexplained death of local man Michael Denby, hopefully to solve this decades-old case. The big question is “Tragic car accident or murder?” And will the result give Ariti a career boost or convince him to leave the force?
Detective Sergeant Mark Ariti wonders “Those courses, a lot of butcher’s paper and PowerPoint. What did it take to become Commissioner, role play?”
To compound matters, DS Ariti is having troubles at home (hhmm) and coincidently was an old school friend of two women, Ingrid and Joanne, the original hitchhikers who are entwined in the cold case. Joanne is now a high-profile celebrity. Also Ariti has Superintendent Conti breathing down his neck asking for updates at every turn.
At the Cutters End police station, Ariti meets Senior Constable Jagdeep Kaur and she shines in her role as the understated country cop. The characters, from pub owners to laconic farmers and the town’s snap-happy crazy man distinguish themselves as Ariti begins collecting old data and uncovering new information.
It is intriguing how author Margaret Hickey has woven and looped the plot so that I found it tricky to discern fact from fiction and who was telling the truth. Clues? There is an interesting side story about Ingrid’s travels and her overseas partner Sander.
Generations have struggled against the inhospitable conditions of inland South Australia, either too hardy or too stubborn to leave. Hot dusty life goes on in Cutters End and, intentionally or not, the townspeople are good at telling only half the story behind Michael Denby and the single vehicle crash.
A stark tree, a lone shoe, several things didn’t add up yet held my interest and kept me concentrating. Then a vital link is discovered, suspects come sharply into focus and it’s game on.
I am really looking forward to reading “Stone Town” Margaret Hickey’s second book in this series.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
It never fails to annoy me when book reviewers find fault with indigenous language or slang in a book. I don’t mean a foreign language, for example an Irish character using a smattering of French, but the local terminology in the country in which the story is placed. For instance, Australian crime novels are often set in small towns or outback locations where descriptive words are used. They, like most informal terms used in common speech, are second nature to the Australian reader. But apparently this throws overseas readers into a tizzy. Well, guess what guys, we have been reading British and American books for many many years and we learned to cope! Embrace the difference! I am sure Mrs Google will help you learn a couple of new words 😀 GBW.