THE DEEP by Kyle Perry (Michael Joseph, 20 July 2021)
One of the stand out Australian crime fiction debuts of 2020 was Kyle Perry’s evocative Tasmanian novel The Bluffs.
Set in the remote wilderness of Tasmania’s Great Western Tiers, The Bluffs was an evocative and well written novel that centred on the disappearance of a group of teenage girls whilst on a school camp.
Now with The Deep, Perry moves to the rugged and dangerous coast of south eastern Tasmania and a more complex plot.
The story opens in dramatic fashion, when a thirteen-year-old boy staggers out of the ocean, bruised and weirdly tattooed. The boy appears to be Forest Dempsey, who has been missing for seven years along with his mother and infamous drug runner father, Jesse. The Dempsey family have run the local area’s lucrative drug trade for generations, under the cover of their successful fishing business, and have established a small empire around the popular tourist destination of Shacktown. Since the disappearance of Jesse, the business has been successfully managed by his brother Davey, under the watchful eye of family matriarch Ivy. With Forest’s reappearance, however, the equilibrium of the business is undermined, especially with rumours that the dreaded drug kingpin Blackbeard is intending to move in on the family business.
The Deep is a richly textured novel with a strong cast of well fleshed out characters and a carefully considered plot that twists and turns its way to a violent and moving conclusion. The opening sections require careful reading, as the various characters and their complex relationship to each other and the plot are introduced, but once underway the pace picks up considerably and is helped along by flashes of violence and unexpected deaths. It is possible to anticipate some of the twists, but Perry pulls off some good surprises all the way down to the last sentence.
Central to the plot is Perry’s masterful construct of Shacktown and the Dempsey family. Similar to American writers like Don Winslow, Perry has used the intricacies of the drug trade to create a strong family drama and social commentary within the framework of a crime novel. It is an impressive feat that is well supported by some credible characters, particularly the troubled Mackerel Dempsey and the determined Ahab Stark, who change and grow as the plot progresses, and add a real depth to the story.
Also impressive is Perry’s evocative descriptions of the Tasmanian coastline and the dangerous waters that batter the rocks and beaches. As with his first novel, Perry brings to life a little known part of Tasmania and makes it an important part of the story.
Overall, The Deep is a great follow-up novel by Perry and clearly establishes him as a major figure on the Australian crime writing scene. Four and a half stars out of five!
The Deep was released by Penguin books in Australia on 20 July 2021. Release dates for overseas are not clear, but it can be bought online through Australian booksellers.
Thanks to Penguin Random House Australia and the Canberra Weekly for a copy of the book to review.