The Autumn Murders, Robert Gott
As per the blurb, this is a series that started out with THE HOLIDAY MURDERS, then came THE PORT FAIRY MURDERS and now THE AUTUMN MURDERS. At this point it's very much a series that needs to be read in order, as the back story here is really going to be important to a reader understanding the implications of George Starling's plans for revenge.
Starling is a very different sort of villain for Robert Gott to be tackling. He's almost all consuming, particularly in THE AUTUMN MURDERS, and whilst there are the good guys, Detective Joe Sable and Constable Helen Lord in particular, their stories take a bit of a back seat to the all consuming evil that is George Starling. It's also pretty easy to assume that in the 1940's the passion for Nazism wasn't as prevalent here, particularly in the country towns of Australia. Can't help feeling that's the same mistake we're all making again. It's novels like THE AUTUMN MURDERS that help to provide an important reminder that it doesn't take much when it comes to radicalisation, and the pathways to it, and support for it, are often found in mania and mindless following of all sorts of "doctrines". This is an aspect of Gott's writing in this series that I've increasingly come to respect - he's able to tease out the worse excesses of human nature in an low key, almost mannered way, making it all the more sobering, without losing those delicate touches of wit and irony that he's particularly good at.
But mannered, and stylish this whole series has been, although THE AUTUMN MURDERS is more gruesome, more dark and sobering than either of the earlier novels. Perhaps because Starling, his obsessions, his violence and his ruthlessness take such focus away from the better people in the world. Joe Sable and his personal demons, Helen Lord and her difficulties being accepted as a woman in the police force, Titus Lambert and his wife and their support, care and affection for each other, and his staff and friends. Even Helen Lord's personal life comes under direct attack in this outing, and the consequences of a change in her personal circumstances seem likely fodder for upcoming novels in this most excellent historical crime fiction series from one of the genuinely nice authors in the Australian scene.
(American readers note: Robert Gott will be with Sulari Gentill, Emma Viskic and Jock Serong as part of "On the Run, Australian Crime Writers in America tour" to be in Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Arizona, Texas and at Bouchercon in October / November 2019 - follow any of them on social media for details (not Robert - it seems he's social media allergic, wise man that he is....)).
In the autumn of 1944, George Starling prepares to exact revenge on the person he hates most in the world (and Starling has a long list of people he hates), Detective Joe Sable of the Melbourne Homicide division. Driven by his dark passion for Nazism, Starling is going to make sure that nothing and no one will stand in his way and survive.
Homicide is in turmoil. Riven by internal divisions and disrupted by the war, it has become a dangerous place for Joe to work. Constable Helen Lord, suspended from her position in Homicide, and battling grief, is also in Starling’s sights. Knowing that Inspector Titus Lambert can’t protect them from Starling’s ruthless aim, Helen and Joe decide to set their own trap. But when the trap is sprung, who will be caught in it?
The Autumn Murders is a stylish, historical whodunit, written with wit and insight into the dark corners where the worst of us hides.