The Beacon, P.A. Thomas

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

A disgraced son of a powerful Australian media tycoon, the traumatised daughter of a small town newspaper editor, coincidentally owned by the aforementioned tycoon. One is sent to "learn the ropes of journalism" / ie been kicked down the line, the other is in town after something sent her legal career into free fall. Then the local newspaper editor dies in a seeming shark attack and things get messy.

Byron Bay does have a reputation for being a laid back, holiday destination, pumped full of influencer types, and some serious money. So when Jack Harris is sent there to learn the ropes of running a small town newspaper, after being demoted as an executive in his father's multi-million dollar media network, it's not all hard work. After all, living in his father's exclusive mansion, with a couple of lifelong family retainers on hand is not exactly slumming it in the sticks. Although Jack finds Caitlin O'Shaughnessy very hard work indeed. His first day at the office, hungover and in no mood, finds Caitlin's father, and editor of The Beacon, Patrick, missing, and his very pissed off daughter on hand to make his life difficult. To be fair, she's got a pretty good line in making a lot of people's life difficult.

Character based crime fiction is always an interesting undertaking, and whilst Byron and it's environs, and some of the tensions that happen when an idyllic setting is populated by wealthy incomers, are part of the story in THE BEACON, this is very much character based storytelling. Which is fortunate, because these are two great characters, and the setup here is particularly interesting. It turns out that Patrick O'Shaughnessy had gone surfing and never returned. His body, minus one leg eventually shows up, looking for all the world like he's been the victim of a shark attack, until it doesn't look that way at all. In the meantime Caitlin and Jack have to try to find out what happened to her much loved, and admired widely, father, whilst also trying to stay one step ahead of a lot of unknowns, and not deck each other in the process.

Turns out there's a story that Patrick's been working on that has made him very twitchy, alarmed enough to take out a new life insurance policy which sets Jack to thinking, as does the state of Patrick's surfboard which doesn't shout shark attack as far as Jack's concerned. Luckily it turns out Jack is a pretty darn good investigative reporter, and he's got his own underworld connection (school friend Ricky). It's Ricky's connections and technical abilities, Jack's ability to annoy people into revelation, and Caitlin's knowledge of her father and everyone he was connected to that pull the whole thing together, and the way they remain as much in the dark as the reader as the hunt continues really works.

Thoroughly enjoyable and highly entertaining, THE BEACON is a largish book that hasn't succumbed to padding, repetition or large periods of downtime. There's potential here for the start of a very interesting new series - Jack Harris has all the makings of a very good investigative reporter, and Caitlin O'Shaughnessy would be a very able partner in pursuit.


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Jack Harris, the disgraced son of Australia’s most powerful business tycoon, has just been exiled to Byron Bay as a junior journalist at his father’s smallest regional newspaper, The Beacon. His arrival coincides with the disappearance of the newspaper’s editor, Patrick O’Shaughnessy, while out on his morning surf. When Patrick’s body is discovered in the ocean, with a severed leg, it appears certain that he’s fallen victim to a shark attack.

But when rumours emerge that Patrick was about to publish an explosive article – its subject unknown – Jack begins to suspect his death is not what it seems.

Although police aren’t buying his murder theory, Jack joins forces with Patrick’s daughter and investigates anyway, taking a sometimes less than lawful dive into the newspaperman’s past. Together they discover plenty of Byron locals with a motive to kill, including a bioholistic dentist with a secret, a naturist with an undisguised grudge, and even the mayor of Northern Rivers Shire. But has Jack bitten off more than he can chew?

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