Reviewed by Robert Goodman.
By Jack Heath, Allen and Unwin, $29.99.
Prolific Australian writer Jack Heath takes a break from his compulsively readable cannibal serial killer that you can cheer for Timothy Blake series (Hangman, Hunter and Hideout) with a standalone that plays with many of the same elements. A damaged but determined protagonist, a tense and sometimes deadly situation, some deliberation on relative morals, a bunch of dangerous side characters and some great twists. It all adds up to another page turning thrill ride.
After a cold open in which Elise Glyk is offered her freedom from a knife wielding captor if she just kills someone, Heath rewinds a little. Elise Glyk is masquerading a private detective as she tries to discover the whereabouts of her missing brother Callum when she realises she is being followed. Before long she has found him, held captive in a repurposed septic tank by an elderly woman who believes he has wronged her. The woman, not realising Elise’s identity, tries to force Elise to kill Callum so she will be implicated and won’t go to the police. This is a set up for a cat and mouse game as Elise tries to appear to be complying while also trying to get herself and her brother free.
There is, of course, more to this than just the main plot. Elise herself has a chequered athletic past that has made her a pariah in the small town she grew up in and has returned to. Stephanie, the woman holding them both captive, has a real grievance but maybe not one that should lead to this extreme a response. And Callum himself is so slippery that Elise starts to question his honesty and her relationship with him.
There are a few nagging plot holes but, as with the Blake books, Heath keeps the pace up and the twists and reverses coming quickly enough that none of that really matters. And he builds up to a slightly crazy but well set-up twist that blows the narrative wide open. Overall Heath has delivered another breathless, tense and violent but compulsively readable thriller.
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