DINING WITH DEVILS - Gordon Aalborg
After spending a fair amount of time in Tasmania in the 1970's, Canadian Gordon Aalborg did what all red blooded Canadian-Australian men do, he turned to writing romance novels. 20 or more of those novels later, he's now turned to crime fiction as well, and DINING WITH DEVILS is the second of those.
Set in Tasmania, DINING WITH DEVILS combines crime and caving - not a combination that you'd immediately think of (unless you're inclined towards the belief that activities in the dark are best when that dark is rocky, hard, damp, and far underground!)
Sergeant Charlie Banes from the Tasmanian police isn't the only one who instantly thinks that the blind man shooting blanks at a dead pigeon has killed the gun dog judge. Visiting Canadian author Teague Kendall came to the same conclusion. At the same time caving enthusiast and almost girlfriend of Kendall, Kirsten Knelsen, is kidnapped. Nothing connects these two events until Kendall also goes missing. Odd? Well add a psychotic anti-American ex-Vietnam War sniper; a vengeful ex-wife; a killer who was supposed to have died in a Canadian cave a year ago; an irascible old bushman; an even more irascible Jack Russell; and a Bunch of Tassie Devils doing what Tassie Devils do best and Charlie's up to his elbows in the mad, the bad, and the simply flat out peculiar.
One of the hardest things about writing a book based somewhere you don't live on a daily basis would seem to be getting the language right - the slang, the intonation and, in particular with Australia, the dry, sarcastic wit. Aalborg's done a terrific job at getting a very realistic feel, tone and timing to the dialogue in DINING WITH DEVILS. There are a few minor slipups that local readers will need to forgive - cellphone isn't a term we use at all, and despite SUV making minor inroads into our daily language courtesy of some appallingly lazy advertising, it's still not ubiquitous. Luckily the pace of the book is going to pull a local reader through these minor blips, and the main part of the dialogue - particularly the humour, works pretty well.
The other thing that works really well in DINING WITH DEVILS is the descriptions and use of the Tasmanian bush. The characters live within their setting with ease, the locations within the book, whilst most likely fictional, seem right for the place.
The action in this book is tight, and taut, and whilst the plot is complicated, it's not messy. It's also not without some laugh out loud funny moments, as well as the occasional peak through the fingers scary bits. It's not a book that gives up on characterisation for the sake of action, although not all the characters are meant to be people that you want to sit down and have a beer with. Suspense, action, humour, cannibalism, caving, bushcraft, Tassie Devils, and a cranky Jack Russell terrier - DINING WITH DEVILS has the lot.
On a remote Tasmanian grazing property, a gundog judge is murdered—at first glance by a blind man shooting blanks at a dead pigeon—in an incident seen but not understood by Tasmania Police Sgt. Charlie Banes and his close friend, visiting Canadian author Teague Kendall.
Meanwhile, Kendall’s almost-lover Kirsten Knelsen, an ardent caving enthusiast, is kidnapped elsewhere in Tasmania, with nothing to even suggest the two incidents might be related. Then Kendall himself goes missing.
It takes all of Charlie’s “country cop” skills to discover the links, which involve Kendall’s vengeful Tasmanian ex-wife, a psychotic, American-hating ex-Viet Nam sniper, and a killer believed to have been dead for more than a year!
The killer everyone thinks perished in a Canadian cave is seeking revenge on Kirsten, the woman who trapped him there and left him to die. This time—as before—he intends to have Kirsten for dinner, and when Kendall’s ex-wife contributes Kendall to the menu, the killer fairly drools with anticipation.
Charlie’s rush to save his friends and end the killing spree is a race against time through the eucalypt forests of Tasmania’s east-coast highlands. Aided by a cranky old bushman and his even-crankier Jack Russell terrier, Charlie also has help from the ubiquitous Tasmanian Devils … world-class scavengers with their own ideas about appropriate table manners.