Thursday, October 14, 2010

Review of Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland (2010, Quercus)

Emily Tempest has been persuaded to join the Aboriginal Community Police. It wasn’t her first choice of job, but the options in a small, rough and tumble mining town in the middle of the Australian outback are limited. She thought she’d be working for Tom Gillivray, but he’s worse for wear after being attacked with a zimmerframe wielded by an elderly tear-about. Instead, in her first day at work gets off to a rocky start with the pissy, dour Bruce Cockburn, her new boss, a roadside death, and the murder of an increasingly disorientated and disillusioned geologist and prospector. Treated like a dogsbody who doesn’t belong, she finds herself bristling with indignation. And once she realises who the dead man is, having spent half her life being dragged round the mines by her white father, and who has been accused of murdering him, she can’t help but stick her nose in where it’s not wanted and do her own digging around. Cockburn sees an open and shut case; Emily sees lazy policing and a potentially innocent man heading for trial. If this is how justice works, then she figures she can use and abuse the badge until they either take it off her or she discovers the truth.

Diamond Dove, Adrian Hyland’s first Emily Tempest novel, was one of my books of 2009 (review here). It was with great anticipation then that I waited for Gunshot Road. I even pre-ordered a copy, only to be let down by the usually reliable Amazon. I eventually got my hands on a copy a couple of weeks ago and it moved straight to the top of the TBR pile. The novel, thankfully, lived up to my expectations. In Emily Tempest, Hyland has created a wonderfully engaging character; half-aboriginal, half-white, she oscillates between two worlds. Quick witted, head-strong, caring and obstinate, she ploughs her own unique path through life. In fact, the whole book is populated with well penned characters that have depth and inner life. Hyland does a great job of immersing the reader in the small, fractious communities and strained social relations of outback Australia, creating a vivid sense of place. And he has wonderful, expressive turn of phrase and lively and witty prose. The storytelling, as a whole is excellent, the plotting and narrative strong, particularly in the first half of the book. The second half does suffer a little from an attempt to build tension through a series of multiple pressure points, and increasingly shorter chapters. That said, this really is a great read and one I’ve already recommended to friends. It’s definitely going to be near the top of my best reads of 2010 and I’ll be pre-ordering the next book in the series – note to author and publisher, please get a move on!


Bernadette said...

Glad it was worth the wait Rob. Last I heard Adrian is working on a book set in or around the terrible bushfires that swept through the area where he now lives last year so we may all have a wait on our hands for the next installment about Emily (though he did say in an interview that he is planning one)

kathy d. said...

I loved this book--the character, the sense of place, the sensitivity to Indigenous people and their cultures--and the great writing.

I have said often that I felt like I was eating an exquisite dessert, and that I wanted to savor each word.

In the second half, yes, there was a bit of lagging and I didn't think a particularly abusive act to Emily Tempest was needed. I got it without that. It was a bump in a straight, upward ride.

She recovered well, which I don't think is the case for real women.

Yet, the book was stupendous. I got "post-good-book" slump, and I wait impatiently for the next book in the series.

I hope Hyland gets nominations and awards for this book.