26 September 2023

Wild Dogs

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Reviewed by Robert Goodman.

By Michael Trant, Penguin, $32.99.

Western Australian author Michael Trant had a varied career before he came to writing including farmer, pastoralist and pot washer. He brings that experience and his feel for remote parts of Western Australia in his second novel, the thriller Wild Dogs.

Gabe Ahern earns his crust by trapping and killing dingoes that terrorise the pastoral stations that sit in the north western corner of Western Australia. But Gabe supplements his income by illegally running alcohol into a dry Aboriginal community and trapping dingoes on the Aboriginal lands which he then pretends to have found on private land. It is during this latter endeavour that he comes across two men having executed one man and about to execute another. He kills the two and rescues the third who tells him an unbelievable story – that people smugglers brought him and his family from Afghanistan and that the trafficked men are forced to work in one place while their families are held elsewhere. That man, Amin, is determined to rescue his wife and son and while Gabe does not want to get involved he soon finds that they are on the run from a determined kangaroo hunter and enforcer for the gang. Later, after unwittingly involving a young Aboriginal man called Darren and the local nurse, the four find themselves on the run but also planning how they can rescue Amin’s family.

Wild Dogs is a pure outback thriller. Trant effectively keeps the pages turning with plenty of close calls and cliffhangers. There is little mystery and few twists and turns just a propulsive plot, some interesting characters and a smattering of ethical conundrums particularly as the three realise that involving the authorities may result in Amin being deported. Trant delivers this all with a great sense of place – the small towns, local communities, pastoral stations and quiet corners of the Western Australian outback. And while both Darren and Courtney are given their time to shine, this book is at its best when it focusses on the wily old timer Gabe and the use of his dog tracking, hunting and trapping skills in a life or death situation. All of which makes for a very effective and enjoyable thriller.

Over 700 more reviews can be found on Pile by the Bed.

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