Big Red Rock, David Owen
A new Pufferfish novel will always be a thing of joy - whiteboard lists or no whiteboard lists and BIG RED ROCK fits the bill perfectly. Of course you will need to have a love of self-deprecating wit that's so dry you'd swear it originated in Uluru rather than Hobart. You will need to like the bear-prodding style of investigation, that's actually covering up an acute ability to observe, retain and analyse the smallest drips of information. And in this outing, be prepared for some personal revelations - in that dry, understated, not bothered sort of style that Pufferfish is the appointed monarch of.
As always, BIG RED ROCK has all the personal machinations; the working relationships with what is now a well-established, well-oiled team of 3 investigators; the romancing of long term partners; the tension with the higher-ups; and the day to day struggles of your typical hard-bitten, worn-down, put upon cop type (Pufferfish in case you were wondering), intertwined with a murder and a mystery - all in the glorious setting of Tasmania, with a smidgen of Alice Springs, and mainland capital cities included for a change of scenery. In Tasmania Pufferfish and team (minus one) are confronted with the possible accident, could be suicide, ultimate murder of Hildvi - successful woman, wife who sent her husband Wayne out for pizza and fell to her death in their fancy house in the hills above Hobart.
Meanwhile the minus one is off in the wilds of Tasmania looking into the disappearance, presumed murder of one young country singer. Pufferfish has a watching brief on that one - for reasons which become clear and present well into the story.
Along the way there's also Wayne the highly specialist, long-distance Removalist; the mysterious and frankly odd Kurt Cowboy; cocaine importation; major investigation Operation Centipede; Uluru; Alice Springs; Pufferfish and a lot of connections. Connections, crossed paths, tripped over feet, stood on toes, odd goings on, people gone missing, people showing up, and the whole damn thing.
BIG RED ROCK is absolutely a good Pufferfish novel, in a series that's positively crowded with really good novels. They are comedic, dry as desert dust, pointed, observational and more than a bit unusual in their style and construction. If you've not read any of them, then there's now an opportunity to get on board with one of the best things (other than all those other lovely things that come out of Tasmania - cider / cheese / salmon / apples / food / pinot / oh the pinot. Did I mention pinot... Sorry, where was I...). Oh yes, earlier books in the series have now been re-released which is the perfect excuse for you to dive right in. Anywhere in the series will do nicely - there's some relationship building that expands throughout but you'll get the gist wherever you start.
Say it's not so, but detective squads still put their faith in the whiteboard and texta, brainstorming difficult cases. Like this:
- Hildvi dies. Accident, suicide, murder?
- Wayne, distraught.
- Josh, Ange, impeccable alibis.
- Mrs Ellicott swears she heard a scream.
- Kurt Cowboy - mysterious, dangerous, no known ID.
- Operation Centipede - Brisbane, "colourful identity" Marko Kaljurand.
- Fishscale, Charlie, Blow, Wogan = best quality cocaine.
- Uluru... Sorry, wrong whiteboard? No. Correct whiteboard. Add Alice Springs.
Seeking answers to myriad tricky questions, Detective Inspector Franz Heineken, aka Pufferfish, aka long-time Aussie blow-in, knows where he must go - to the two Australian places he never wanted to investigate, let alone re-visit: the fabled Red Centre, and his ethically questionable past.