Conviction, Frank Chalmers
Queensland, 1976, the town of Royalton and exiled Detective Ray Windsor, sent to the dying town in the state's west, feels like an alien in his own country. Royalton is ruled by corruption, populated by despair and an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, something that Windsor instantly has an absolutely guttural reaction to - his police hierarchy is just awful, and the general lack of interest in the death of a couple of young girls shocking to a man who might be good with his fists, but he's a decent cop, in a difficult situation.
A lot of the elements that come into play in CONVICTION aren't new in crime fiction, and it feels like we've bounced over this particular cattle grid in the past. Small towns, surrounded by failing farms, a population of downtrodden lost people, ruled over by a corrupt and violent group of authorities, not afraid to stop at anything. It kind of makes sense that a bit of an outsider is the only one that's going to break a stranglehold like this, and Wilson is just the sort of incomer for the job. He's determined, and fundamentally decent, as tough as bloody nails and not interested in getting involved in the corruption. The local cop he's assigned to work with in this instance, is also a decent bloke, powerless or unwilling to take on the challenge alone, absolutely up for shaking the trees when he gets a bit of support.
Given all of this, it did come as a bit of a surprise to find CONVICTION a bit more of a slow-burner than you'd expect. There's a lot of byways and side-alleys to go down, perhaps in part because the higher-ups are determined to keep the focus away from the abuse and death of two young girls. It's hard, in the early stages, to tell if this is racism, guilt, disinterest, or a combination of the lot. It's also got more than a bit frustrating when obvious clues where missed, and alleys could have been used as pathways out. Once that final option dawns things get moving again, but readers might want to be prepared for a lot of setup, and a lot of concentration on the social factors around the crime's as opposed to the crimes themselves.
CONVICTION definitely delivered on a strong evocation of place though the timeframe was slightly less clear - although to be honest, some country towns kind of still have a 1970's feel to them (and this from somebody who lives out in those sorts of areas), so maybe the timeframe wasn't the point. The corruption, the racism, misogyny and the desperation all definitely had a sobering, depressing ring of truth to them, so readers might want to be prepared to come away from a novel like this, with current affairs and attitudes in the forefront of their mind, wondering why it is that these sorts of attitudes remain today. Some champions of awfulness might have upgraded to suit wearing, but silk, pig's ears, and emperor's cloaks all came to mind.
A town ruled by fear. A cop who won't be broken. A pulse-pounding debut thriller that pulls no punches.
Queensland in 1976 churns with corruption. When Detective Ray Windsor defies it, he is exiled deep into the state's west. It's easy out there to feel alien in your own country.
Royalton is a town on its knees, stricken by drought, riven by prejudice, and plagued by crimes left largely uninvestigated by the local police chief, Kennedy, and his elusive boss.
Mutual dislike between Kennedy and Ray gradually turns ugly as Ray and his new partner, Arshag, uncover a pattern of crimes that no one seems concerned about solving. But when two girls from local immigrant families are found dead and another disappears, Ray and Arshag are forced to take the law into their own hands. Not knowing who to trust, nor how deep the corruption runs, how long will it be before their lives are also threatened?