Dusty Buchanon used to be the rising star of Darwin’s police force with an uncanny knack of solving difficult cases. That changed, however, with the failure to prosecute Evan Dale Gardner on circumstantial evidence for the rape and murder of a young backpacker. A couple of years on and Dianna McVeigh’s body has been found, but the case has been assigned to a hated colleague by the new, hardnosed commander. Frustrated at being sidelined, when Dusty hears that the body of another young woman has been found in a billabong, deep in the outback near to a Vietnam vets camp, she heads off to investigate. Only when she calls in reinforcements the body has disappeared and she is demoted back to uniform. Determined to prove that a murder has taken place and to catch the killer, she enrols a ragbag collection of friends to continue the hunt. All the while the heat and humidity continues to build-up prior to the monsoon rains falling.
Like Marshall Karp’s ‘The Rabbit Factory’ (reviewed here), The Build Up seeks create a police procedural underlain with dark humour, mostly mobilised through some comic set pieces and the ragbag collection of friends (including a gay art dealer, an aboriginal rock star, a German twitcher, and a pet pig). For the most part it kind of works. I enjoyed the book, but was not blown away by it. The writing is fairly perfunctory, the characters a little stereotypical, and plot a little haphazard. What should have been twists and turns in the story came as little surprise, and it kind of peters out towards the end rather than coming to a climax. The story has some nice observational asides about the Northern Territories and its inhabitants, but mostly the story felt quite shallow, contra Adrian Hyland’s ‘Diamond Dove’ (reviewed here). Overall, an okay read that has its amusing moments that will appeal to readers who enjoy comic crime capers.