Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland
Soho Press, 2008
Orignally published as Diamond Dove in Australia, 2006
Book 1 in the Emily Tempest series
Ned Kelly Award for Best First Novel
Source: library copy
Moonlight Downs takes place in the Northern Territory of Australia in both the camp of Moonlight Downs and the town of Bluebush. Emily Tempest is a half-Aborigine, half-white woman who grew up on Moonlight Downs after her mother died when Emily was five years old. She lived there with her father Jack until she was a teenager. The book finds Emily returning to Moonlight Downs at age 26 after trying a handful of college degree programs and lots of different jobs.
Emily is a flinty, tough character who investigates the murder of her surrogate father and tribal leader Lincoln Flinders. The investigation takes up much of the second half of the book, with the first half of the book more of an introduction to the area, the land, the characters, and their backgrounds. It’s interesting stuff: anthropology, geology (Emily’s dad is a miner, so she grew up identifying rocks, minerals, and crystals), and sociology. Black-white relations are pretty horrid, and life in the bush as well as in the rough-and-tumble settlement of Bluebush isn’t pretty.
I enjoyed the first half of the book, which is Emily’s return Moonlight Downs and her mob, or tribe. The actual resolution of the crime was not my favorite part of the book, in part because the conclusion is quite violent, which was a bit jarring. I hope that the next book in the series spends more time on the crime and less time setting up the setting and characters.
Another review appears in International Noir.
I read this book as part of the Global Reading Challenge 2012.