Gunshot 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.