Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland

Gunshot Road by Adrian HylandGunshot Road by Adrian Hyland

Soho Crime, May 2010

I borrowed this book from the library.

Gunshot Road is one of my favorite reads of the year. It took me a bit by surprise because I don’t remember loving the first installment in the series, Moonlight Downs, nearly as much as I loved this one. The writing, the plot, and the intelligence of Hyland shine through in this book. I felt like he was very respectful of Aboriginal people, which was evident from his background working in the Northern Territory.

Emily Tempest begins the book with her new job as an Aboriginal Police Liaison, and she works for a boss who is new to the area after the man who hired her is injured on the job. She’s a bit uncomfortable in the position, as to be expected, and her first day on the job involves the apparently-open-and-shut case of the stabbing of Doc, an eccentric geologist in Bluebush. She’s convinced she was not stabbed by his drinking companion, and her investigation proceeds from there.

The action is quite good. A significant part of the novel felt like a thriller, but there are some times to catch your breath and get a better sense of these character’s lives. A trip Emily takes with the troubled teenager Danny stands out.

The characters aren’t caricatures, and they could have easily been: the mob at Bluebush, Jet the artist from Tibet, Cockburn the new boss who’s a stickler for regulations. It’s a long-enough story that Hyland had time to round the characters.

I could go on: the crime felt significant and I felt the effect it had on everyone involved in the investigation. I learned quite a bit about geology. And, finally, it’s a beautifully written book. I’ll close with one of my favorite passages of the book:

We made our farewells. Or I made my farewells–Jet just stood on the side of the road in her skinny singlet and big boots, shaking her head and muttering, ‘Aiee…This Emily Tempest.’

You can talk, I thought. Jet was taking to the relentless chaos of the borderlands– and there were all manner of borders out here: between black and white, the organic and the mechanical, the random and the damned–like a cockroach to a grease trap.

We left her in a cloud of dust. (p. 313)

Other reviews appear in Reviewing the Evidence, Reactions to Reading, The Game’s Afoot, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, and crimepieces.

14 thoughts on “Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland

  1. Rebecca – First, thanks for the kind link. I’m so very glad you enjoyed this novel as much as you did. I think Hyland is superbly talented, and I really hope there’ll be another Emily Tempest investigation. Soon. I also recommend Moonlight Downs/Diamond Dove.

    • You’re very welcome, Margot! I hope he’s working on a new book as well, but I’m willing to wait. I’d rather read something great than something so-so.

  2. I loved this book. Right now in the US it seems terrifically timely – heartbreakingly so. The complexity of those borders and the official attitude that “these people” are somehow deserving of violence because their lives are lived on the border – well, it’s eerie reading bits of that book and hearing people in my country say essentially the same things as Emily’s boss.

  3. I have this one but I’ve never read it. I couldn’t finish the first book. Does it standalone? I’d prefer to read this one since it’s much better.

    • I think it can work as a standalone, Keishon. I didn’t remember much about the first one, and this particular book starts with Emily taking a new job, so it works as a self-contained investigation.

  4. I’m so glad you liked this book as much as I did. I raved about it to everyone I could reach.
    I was citing the beautiful writing of sentences and paragraphs and saying that, yes, a mystery can be a work of literary fiction. This qualifies.
    And Emily Tempest is a wonderful character.
    And, yes, Adrian Hyland respects Indigenous people and it shows in this book.
    My only problem: So far, no third book in the series. This has left me bereft. Doesn’t the author realize we Emily Tempest fans need another book?

  5. No. I don’t want to read about a wildfire, although I think it’s probably a stunner. I read the first Emily Tempest book.
    And I do think there are other great fans of his Emily Tempest books, at Confessions of a Mystery Novelist and Reactions to Reading, among others. We’ve all sung Hyland’s praises.
    There were paragraphs here that I kept rereading they were so well-written, and his regard for Indigenous culture, also very sensitive.
    There have been small fires in this building (apartment), and a big one in the next building four years ago, which I saw from outside. Two people died. The entire side of the building was ruined and had to be renovated, took 1 1/2 years. Every time I hear a smoke alarm go off, I’m worried.
    Also, the woman who moved next door to me last winter, after about a week, smoke poured out of her apartment. Fire fighters came. Everything smelled of smoke for weeks. (Her little dog took off down the stairs.) There was something with rubber on it in the stove when she turned it on. Smoke galore.
    So I avoid books about fires, fiction or true.

    • I’m so sorry for the fires in your building and next door, Kathy– totally understandable that you want to avoid the Hyland nonfiction book.

      I’m going to do some digging around to find out what he’s working on now. Does he just take a long time to write or is he working on other projects? I’m curious.

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