THOSE WHO PERISH By Emma Viskic (Echo)
Two months into 2022 and Emma Viskic is already staking a strong claim for the best Australian crime novel of the year with Those Who Perish (Echo, 1 March 2022).
This is the fourth novel in her award winning series about deaf Melbourne private eye Caleb Zelic, and is arguably the best of the series so far.
The book opens in dramatic fashion with Caleb rushing early in the morning to the help of his wayward brother, Anton. He arrives at the nearly deserted boardwalk at Resurrection Bay, only to find himself being shot at by a sniper and his brother fleeing. Caleb’s subsequent investigation leads him to a small, wind-punished island off the Victorian coast, where Anton is in rehab and the locals are being picked off by a deadly killer. With his wife due to give birth, Caleb is reluctant to become caught up in more danger, but a sense of familial responsibility drags him into the strange activities on Muttonbird Island.
This is a gripping read with finely nuanced characters that you care about and a plot that sizzles with suspense. The story starts with a bang and the pace rarely lets up, as Caleb becomes caught up in a series of events that quickly spiral out of his control. Emma expertly moves the story along with barely a false note, and the plot twists and turns its way through several cleverly positioned false leads, and a rising body count, to an exciting climax.
The characterisations are superb throughout and even the most minor of characters are imbued with a sense of credibility. Emma is very adroit at creating interesting, original characters on the fringes of mainstream society and bringing them alive, and Those Who Perish is filled with several memorable cameos. At the core of the novel, however, is the tortured Caleb Zelic. He is capable and skillful at what he does, but there is also a sense of fragility about him. The reader very quickly comes to care for him and this sense of involvement adds to the tension, as you worry about his poor decisions and his capacity to survive.
Also enhancing the story are some vivid descriptions of Muttonbird Island, sharp-eyed reflections on modern society and credible dialogue. There are also flashes of wry humour.
It also has a terrific, atmospheric cover.
In all, an another taut and gripping tale by Emma Viskic that entertains while packing an emotional punch.
Four and a half stars out of five!
Those Who Perish is released in Australia in all formats on 1 March 2022. It will be released in paperback in the United Kingdom on 28 April 2022 and in the United States in July 2022. Audio book versions are available in both countries from 1 March 2022.