Outback, Patricia Wolf

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

You have to give it to the publishing gods, once they find a location or concept that appeals to readers, they stick with it like sweaty thighs to a vinyl car seat. Outback Noir is something that's been ticking away in Australia for quite a while now, with settings from the red, dry dirtland centre of Australia from Western Australia to Queensland, South Australia to the Northern Territory. OUTBACK by Patricia Wolf is set in hot, dry remote small-town Queensland in the fictional location of Caloodie (the author spent many years living in Mount Isa and there are things that might ring readers bells location wise).

The story revolves around the disappearance of two young German backpackers, a couple that met in Sydney, and have headed out towards Caloodie and onto Smithton to work. Australia's visa system does allow backpackers who work in regional and rural locations to extend their stay, and it's not uncommon to find young people from all sorts of countries out in the bush, doing their visa extension work. In this case Rita and Berndt have done absolutely everything wrong they could have. They're driving a car which is just not equipped to deal with the distances, the heat and the dust of their travel plans. They have opted to press on in the heat of the day, when a few days rest and a chance for the car to be serviced / checked would have been much more sensible, and somewhere on the road between Caloodie and Smithton, they, and their car seem to have completely vanished.

Backpackers going missing is not completely unknown out in the back blocks though - and the local police have a go at finding them, including getting a helicopter to sweep the area, but there's no sign of them, or most importantly, the car. Which makes everyone believe they changed their minds and headed somewhere else. All of which doesn't sit well with their families in Germany, or local DS Lucas Walker, on leave in Caloodie, to be with his dying elderly grandmother. With only a bit of a "what the" moment, Walker is appointed family "liaison" in the case, and finds himself digging around, even more so after Rita's German cop sister Barbara arrives in town to find out what happened.

Interspersed with chapters that tell the reader exactly what's happening with Berndt and Rita, the story concentrates mostly on Lucas Walker, his personal life, and his investigation, as well as his belief, informed by his background in investigating organised crime, that drug trafficking must be involved. Walker also uncovers some very localised corruption and plenty of dodgy types lurking in the back blocks of the various towns, as well as the sorts of meth problems that happen in so many rural towns in Australia nowadays. Much of the plot here is very believable, and the end result will remind a lot of readers of similar cases in Australia over the years. Whilst there is some predictability because of those connections, the resolution is fast paced, the threat level very believable, and the working relationship between Walker and Rita's sister Barbara an interesting touch.

The 2nd book in the Walker series, PARADISE, is out now so I'm looking forward to see whether a few open ended threads are picked up again, and most definitely looking forward to seeing what happens with DS Lucas Walker.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

Two missing backpackers. One vast outback.

DS Lucas Walker is on leave in his hometown, Caloodie, looking after his dying grandmother. When two young German backpackers vanish from the area on their way to a ranch, he finds himself unofficially on the case. But why all the interest from the Federal Police, when they have probably just ditched the heat and dust of the outback for the coast?

As the number of days the couple are missing climbs, DS Walker is joined by the girl's sister. A detective herself from Berlin, she is desperate to find her before it's too late.

Walker remains convinced there is more at play. Working in the organised crime unit has opened his eyes to the growing drug trade in Australia's remote interior. Could this be connected?

As temperatures soar, the search intensifies to a thrilling crescendo against the unforgiving backdrop of the scorching Australian summer.

Review Outback, Patricia Wolf
Karen Chisholm
Friday, January 5, 2024
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Tuesday, January 2, 2024
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Karen Chisholm
Tuesday, January 2, 2024

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