Review - Dead Wood, s.j. brown

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

DEAD WOOD is the second book from Tasmanian author s.j. brown, located in his home state, featuring Police DI John Mahoney.

Set within the fallout of the GFC, the novel explores the haves and the have not’s as a result of financial shakedown, within the framework of the very brutal murder of a prominent member of the local business community. Using that structure provides the author with another angle to explore as well - the big fish in a small pond, and the high profile that salacious goings on can give local events.

In the first book in the series, HIGH BEAM, there was a tendency for over-wordiness and too much filling in of everything for the reader, which has been addressed in DEAD WOOD. The plot is much more to the fore, and the prose crisper and to the point. Mahoney remains a dedicated yet slightly disillusioned character although he is starting to settle back into life in Hobart, and cut himself some slack into the bargain. It’s also an interesting touch to have the old cop return home, and find himself surrounded by a new generation with their new methods and technology. Of course you’d expect old and cunning will beat young and tech savvy but there’s some subtlety in the presentation.

The use of the smaller capital city location, providing a form of enclosed society, works well for the plot points developed in DEAD WOOD - the need for speed of resolution coming from a community shocked by the murder makes sense in a location where murder is unusual, and victims high profile.

The minor quibble this time out, as is often the way with this reader, is the dialogue which is not quite as natural or flowing as is my personal preference. Reading some passages aloud they seem quite formal, lacking that feeling of natural to and fro from people working together under pressure.

Aside from that minor quibble it’s good to see the improvements in DEAD WOOD, and nice to see another series coming out of such a beautiful location.

Year of Publication
Book Number (in series)

Tasmania is in trouble. 

While mainland Australia surges through the backwash of the GFC the island state is struggling. Political infighting, bureaucratic ineptitude and a lack of investment have curtailed progress. Too many people are lodging on ‘Struggle Street’. 

DI John Mahoney knows this as well as anyone. Of more immediate concern to him is the brutal murder of a prominent business leader. The scale of public interest is high and the Serious Crimes Squad must make headway fast. As the investigation proceeds it becomes clear that whoever is behind the barbarity is sending a message to the whole community. 

Another homicide quickly follows and pressure mounts as they seek to unravel the trail of clues. Lives are in danger but the solution is proving difficult to find. 

As Mahoney deals with fissures in his personal life and generational change in the police force he must call on his full array of investigative skills to get a result. 

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