Author: Felicity Young
Publisher: Creme De La Creme, 2005
Cam Fraser is a former National Crime Authority officer who, with his teenage daughter Ruby, has moved from Sydney to become Senior Sergeant in the Western Australian country town of his birth. Almost as soon as he arrives a building at a private girl’s school in the town is burned down and a body is discovered in the ashes. To investigate the crime Cam has help from a squad of rookies and one experienced officer who is the subject of a series of complaints. In addition both he and his daughter are still recovering from the tragedy that led to them leaving Sydney.
Fortunately for me this book was well worth the four months it took to track down a copy of it. The story is believable, has a well paced suspense and rates highly on my ‘readability’ scale which is a vague term I use to describe how interested I am in turning each page. I finished the whole thing in two sittings and I’m not even going to complain that one of those sittings kept me up until 2:00am on a school night. I simply had to know if my predictions for whodunit were accurate which is always a sign of a good read (for the record, they weren’t).
Although recognisably Australian in its setting and language the book achieves this state naturally. Sometimes with Australian books, such as Geraldine Brooks’ People of the Book which I read earlier this year, I cringe at the use of colloquialisms that would only be found in a Paul Hogan ad and never in real conversations. A Certain Malice achieves an Australian sensibility beautifully and without appearing to try too hard.
I quickly became engaged by the protagonist and the minor characters, especially the troubled Ruby and rookie cop Leanne, who all seemed very credible. It was also interesting to see the sub-plot with Vince develop in a more realistic way than some of the ‘cops protect cops at all costs’ plots that have permeated crime fiction for years.
On top of all this the book is less than 300 pages and, it seems, is not part of an ongoing series. Both of these things are increasingly rare occurrences in modern crime fiction so to find both attributes in one terrific story is something to be treasured indeed.
My rating 4.5/5