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Posted by on 31 May, 2022 in Australian Crime Fiction, Bestseller, Canberra Weekly, Crime, Outback Crime, Thriller | 0 comments



Canberra Weekly 26 May 2022

This week in the Canberra Weekly I reviewed three new books about the Australian Outback, including two thrillers.

Outback Teacher by Sally Gare with Freda Marnie (Allen & Unwin)

First a non-crime book, Outback Teacher (Allen & Unwin) by Sally Gare and Freda Marnie. This chronicle of the first six years of Sally’s career as a teacher in some of the remotest parts of Australia makes for fascinating reading. Not only is it a testament to Sally’s resilience and dedication, it also shines a light on little known aspects of Australia’s past.

In the Canberra Weekly I said:

“In 1956 at the age of 20, freshly minted teacher Sally Gare was sent to work at a two-teacher school based at an
Aboriginal mission run by the Church of England, some 3000 kilometres from Perth. Situated near the border with the
Northern Territory, Forrest River Mission was as far from a big city as you get. It was a challenging experience for Sally, who found herself doing more than just teaching. Full of great stories and reflections, Outback Teacher is a fascinating chronicle of the first six years of Sally’s teaching career in small outback schools, and a reminder of how things were.”

Spinifex: The Curse of the Night Parrot by John Grant (Stormbird Press)

While releases from the larger publishers get most of the attention, there is also a steady stream of interesting Australian crime fiction being released by some of the smaller, independent publishers such as Fremantle Press, Ultimo Press, Shaw Line Publishing and Pantera Press, to name a few. Now Stormbird Press, a niche publisher of books that defend nature and empower communities, has ventured into the crime field with John Grant’s Spinifex: The Curse of the Night Parrot (Stormbird Press). It is a heart-felt and gritty tale about murder, natural history and the terrible impact of illegal bird smuggling.

In the Canberra Weekly I said:

“John Grant combines bird watching and murder in his entertaining novel about the efforts to save a rare Australian bird. The discovery of the almost extinct night parrot lures smugglers to the outback in hope of capturing it and selling it on the black market. Wildlife officer Ric Butler is the only person standing in their way, but when he is falsely accused of murder he goes on the run. As the smugglers head into the steamy croc-infested waters of the remote Torres Strait, Butler is on their trail. A wealth of interesting background information on Australia’s wildlife enhances this engaging thriller.”

Spinifex: The Curse of the Night Parrot, like the bird, may take some effort to track down, but it is well worth it!

The Island by Adrian McKinty (Hachette)

The Irish born Adrian McKinty gained considerable critical acclaim for his books about Royal Ulster Constabulary Sergeant Sean Duffy during the Irish Troubles, most of which were written while he lived in Australia, but it was his last book, the American-based The Chain, which propelled him to the top of the international bestseller lists. Building on the success of The Chain, McKinty has now produced a propulsive and thrilling tale set on a remote island off the coast of Victoria.

The Island (Hachette) comes on the back of lots of publicity and hype, but for once it is warranted. The story moves at a rapid page turning pace and McKinty has infused it with a dark tone that raises some interesting moral issues. The characters are richly fleshed out, and grow and change as the book progresses. It is easy to see why it is already moving towards the top of the bestseller lists.

In the Canberra Weekly I said:

“Adrian McKinty achieved well deserved international success with his last novel, The Chain, and now he is back with another thrilling tale, The Island, set in outback Australia. A vacation for an American family turns to hell when a terrible incident sets them on the run from a violent clan of locals. With each chapter McKinty ups the ante as disliked stepmother Heather desperately tries to keep her newly acquired family safe. Although it is unlikely to be popular with the Australian tourist industry, The Island certainly gets the blood pumping and the pages turning as it races to its dramatic conclusion.”

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