Paradise, Patricia Wolf

Reviewed By
Karen Chisholm

Book Two in the DS Lucas Walker series sees him away from his family home in the dry, arid interior of Queensland, working on the Gold Coast. He's under investigation / threat of his job after the events in the first book, OUTBACK, and temporarily doing some training there. He's been lucky enough to stay in a very swanky apartment overlooking the sea, courtesy of an old friend and admirer of his father, and whilst all of that seems pretty straight forward, there are layers, upon layers here, with echoes back to the drug dealing and criminal gangs back in Caloodie, and Walker's past.

Whilst "technically" non-operational, Walker is seconded into the local police force, while completing the training course he's teaching, because Vandal bikie gang chief, Stefan Markovich is in town, and Walker is pulled into an investigation of a death that is way too close to Markovich for anyone's comfort. Meanwhile a young mother has been killed, and her daughter badly injured in an inexplicable home invasion, an investigation that Walker ostensibly has nothing to do with, but one he can't help but get involved in, especially as the man who has so generously given him a place to stay, was friends with the family that were attacked. The father, a well known sports doctor, is devastated, but Walker is very aware that happy family fronts aren't always what they seem to be.

There is some close coupling between the two books in this series, making reading them in order close to mandatory, as it would help explain a lot of the interactions. In particular, because it's the connections back to the first investigation that trigger a fair bit of personal threat to Walker in this one. It would also help immensely to get a feel for the dramatic change of setting - from the dry, arid, sparsely populated outback Queensland to the glitzy, tourist drawcard that is the Gold Coast which is quite a culture shock for Walker, giving him a real feeling of fish out of water, despite the fancy apartment, and the love of the beach, swimming and the gym culture. The other thing to be aware of is that Walker was badly injured in the first novel, and the threat to his job is because of perceptions about the way he conducted that investigation, and places he went that they would have prefered he hadn't. Knowing the ins and outs of all of that will make some of the exchanges, arrival and movement of people and activities make sense, otherwise, new readers are going to be doing a fair bit of "accepting the premise" as they move forward. On the other hand, readers of OUTBACK may be a bit disappointed to find a few loose ends still waving in the breeze after PARADISE is completed, and may also find that the pace, and the threat isn't quite as keen as it was in the first book, with just the slightest touch of "second book syndrome" creeping in. It might be that by not reading the earlier book, just how much of a fish out of water / lost soul type Walker is could be lost in the noise, and he could come across as a bit more wishy-washy or ineffectual than he really is. The motivations for some of the plot points in this one also lean heavily on the earlier book events, and without that background, they aren't quite as convincing as they could be.

The author, now based in Europe, grew up in outback Australia, and you could feel the affection for that place in the earlier novel. Perhaps that's a bit of what was missing in this one - the Gold Coast was "any glitzy tourist hangout". The plot had a lot of the expected elements of a crime fiction thriller, and maybe the sense of place wasn't strong enough to quite lift the whole thing to the heights of the first book. Not to say this wasn't a very readable story, but if you're new to the series, you might want to have a look at the earlier novel to get a feeling for the real DS Lucas Walker - faults / imperfections / decency and all.

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As DS Lucas Walker recovers from his injuries, he heads from Caloodie, Queensland, to the Gold Coast. Surfer's a seaside city where gleaming high rises fringe sparkling surf beaches, sunny days lead to wild nights, and criminals and bikie gangs mingle with tourists and dignitaries at five star hotels, clubs and casinos.

Before long, Walker is part of a team trying to solve a horrific home invasion and murder that has claimed the life of a young mother and left her nine-year-old daughter fighting to survive. Can he help them find the perpetrators, and keep the young girl safe? Meanwhile, Vandals head honcho Stefan Markovich is in town - and Walker once again finds himself on a dangerous collision course with the drug gang.

Weak from his injuries, and grieving, can Walker solve a case that is more shocking than anyone expected, and survive the dark underbelly of Australia's Surfer's Paradise?

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