The Beautiful Dead, Kim Hunt
Another book from the Ngaio Marsh list of 2021 that feels like the start of a series. This one is set north-west of Sydney, Australia, featuring park ranger Cal Nyx, who finds a badly decomposed body in the bush. Identification shows the body to be that of somebody she once knew, and Cal becomes a suspect in the death as a result. The whole thing gets even more complicated when it turns out the victim was wanted for murder in their own right.
Nyx is living with plenty of family complications and skeletons in closets, which takes a probe of her personal life as part of the police investigation into murky territory indeed. There's a lot going on in THE BEAUTIFUL DEAD, perhaps too much, particularly early on as there is a lot of heavy lifting in the scene setting and introducing a cast of lots of characters. A complex plot at its heart, THE BEAUTIFUL DEAD also relies a bit on coincidences and connections to get lots of suspects, and a lot of motives lined up. It works in creating a lot of possible contenders, and a hefty dose of confusion, which was successful at some points, veering towards overcrowded at others.
None of which is all that terribly surprising in a debut novel, with a complicated, complex character at its heart. Certainly less surprising if we're heading into series territory here, for which there is plenty of potential, particularly with such a strong sense of place as well as an interesting central protagonist.
In a small rural community north-west of Sydney, park ranger, Cal Nyx, finds a badly decomposed body in the bush. When the remains are identified as someone she once knew, the police treat her as a suspect. Cal, a tough and canny woman, needs to find the killer and convince the police of her innocence.
When it turns out the victim was wanted in relation to a previous murder, the case takes a complicated turn. And with family issues bubbling away in the background, Cal starts to feel the heat.
To make matters worse, Cal has a difficult history, and when the police start probing into her private life, she finds herself in a race against the clock to solve the crime.
But the murderer has Cal in their sights, and she has a choice to make…
Catch a killer or do right by her family?