Review: Adrian Hyland created a small town mystery bubbling with heat and tension in Canticle Creek | Canberra weather


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Canticle Creek contains many classic features of the detective story. A stranger. A seemingly calm city with hidden secrets. An investigation by local interests. Adrian Hyland harnesses these elements to produce a readable and compelling novel. Two young people are found dead in a Victorian town. A woman has been murdered and an Indigenous man known to be her boyfriend is suspected of the crime. He was killed in a car accident, but all the evidence points to him as the perpetrator. In the Northern Territory, Police Officer Jesse Redpath hears about the case, and his acquaintance with Adam, a petty criminal with no tendency to violence, leads her to travel to Victoria to investigate. The device from the outside allows the reader to discover things at the same pace as the detective. There is nothing of the terrible fault of the inhabitants of speaking unnatural to other inhabitants about things they all know; rather, Jesse and the reader both start to know nothing, and the facts are gradually revealed. The prose is straightforward, and there are moments of humor as we are introduced to several suspects. There is an interesting cast of characters, ranging from artists and curators to Melbourne crime figures, builders, an aggressive environmentalist, laborers and artisans. The wars in the former Yugoslavia have a continuing influence on a character. The reader will try to find out who the murderer is before Jesse, but Hyland does a very good job of making that difficult. Drugs, greed and the exploitation of the natural world are part of the economy of this seemingly sleepy city. Jesse is observant and courageous, but also reckless, in the best tradition of thriller investigators. A minor flaw in his language skills is that a Geordie accent is described as Scottish. The character (also known as Geordie) is a Scotsman, but those with northern English roots will know that Geordies hails from Newcastle. The environment itself is a character in the novel. It’s so hot it feels like a fire is about to break out, and the scorching threat lasts for most of the book. A painting of an unusual orchid can be important in solving the crime. Small indentations in the ground and disturbed foliage are read by the stranger’s inquisitive eyes, as she tries to piece together events. The ability to reach and grab a shrub is vital. The land around Canticle Creek may not be singing, but it seems to be whispering to the investigator. Canticle Creek is an entertaining and captivating novel. Hyland wrote the perfect story for a long, hot summer, where fire always seems possible.

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