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Mister Hobgoblin

Wake - Shelley Burr

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Wake is a solid Australian Noir. WAKE: Wednesday Addams killed Evelyn. 

 

Lane Holland is a small time private investigator chasing rewards offered for solving cold cases. He rocks up in Nannine, rural New South Wales, to see whether he can shed light on the disappearance of nine year old Evie McCreery over a decade ago. Evie disappeared in the night from a remote farm station. Only her sister Mina and the farm manager's wife were on site, and the site is larger than some small countries. 

 

Lane finds Mina McCreery, now grown up, still living at the station. Her father is away, the old farm manager and his wife kept on more from habit than from any real job of work to do. The McCreerys are rich and they have abandoned all pretence of actually farming the land. Mina says she is desperate to find out what happened to Evie, but not quite desperate enough to want Lane to come in a rake over the very cold coals. 

 

The story is taut. Both Lane and Mina have secrets that drive them in seemingly perverse directions. They barely trust one another, and in this small community, nobody trusts them. Their characters, and those of the supporting cast, feel real and complex. The setting feels authentic almost to the point that the reader can feel the dust blowing in the wind. The point of view shifts from Lane to Mina - and sometimes further afield - creating interest and suspense as the scene cuts away at the crucial moment. There are red herrings and blind alleys, there are sub-plots and history. The storytelling craft is really there and the novel is hard to put down.

 

If there is a flaw, it is in an ending that doesn't quite feel satisfactory. There are loose ends and unanswered questions. Maybe that is part of the game - to keep the reader thinking - but sometimes a good journey needs a destination to match. Does that sound too cryptic? 

 

There have been a number of regional Australian noir novels in recent years; this one is up there with the best. 

 

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