Listening to the radio recently I heard Jane Clifton talking about the thought process behind FLUSH. The end of a long term drought in Melbourne, watching a river running fast, and thinking "What If...". What if a body flushed into the river? What if the cover up of a murder can be derailed by an extreme weather event? What if that body, and that weather event, could provide a pointer to a location, and from there a killer?
The exploration of "What If" can be as interesting for the reader as the why and who. In real life as in fiction, it seems a lot of the undoing of the best laid plans can be luck. It's very bad luck that the disposal of the body of Oleg Kransky's wife was undone by something as simple as a massive rain storm. From there, however, there's a lot more to the story than luck for any of the participants.
Clifton deftly unfurls a complicated and uncomfortable background for Kransky and his now deceased wife as part of the investigation. Whilst the death initially seems to investigators to be a simple domestic dispute, as more unexpected details about the pair are revealed, it's clear that nothing is simple at all. Along the way, Decca Brand finds herself pulled into the investigation. Firstly as a witness testifying to Kransky's mindset, then as a more active participant.
As in the previous book, Brand is a central character who holds up to that focus, although there is some spreading of the load in FLUSH with a new policeman working on the murder case, and providing, not surprisingly a bit of romantic tension for Brand. Given the twist to Kransky's life, everything else being sunshine and roses wouldn't have felt right however, and Clifton keeps everything up in the air and not quite as some might hope.
Clifton does an excellent job in creating a readable, entertaining and engaging story in FLUSH, with just an edge of the darker. Whilst this is a book about the who, the why is important. Complicated on the one hand, not on the other. The clever touch here is that there are all sorts of possible reasons why. There's the impact of past actions in war, the difficulties for people moving on, the sadness of the lives that so many people struggle to stitch back together. There's big consequences. It's delivered with a deft and lighter touch so it's not immediately obvious, but there's a lot more to the why here than the immediate resolution.
And then there's the way this series seems to be heading. It's happened in some other favourites. Starting out as entertaining and extremely readable books, they've morphed into something extra. Something that looks more extensively at the why, going a little deeper and a little darker. Clifton is apparently working on the next book in the series and it will be fascinating to see where it heads.
(Standard Disclaimer: I wrangle the bits and bytes for Clan Destine Press and had no input on the editorial or selection aspects of these books).