Review - Prohibited Zone, Alastair Sarre
PROHIBITED ZONE by Alastair Sarre was published by Wakefield Press in 2011 with the follow-up, ECSTASY LAKE, out early in 2016. If, like me, somehow you missed the first book then you really should rectify that as soon as possible. It is a stellar debut filled with great characters, a really good and interesting plot and comes with a quintessentially Australian feel to it - in the setting and the language.
Blurbed as a "thriller in the desert", PROHIBITED ZONE is centred, as referenced to by the title, in the area around the Woomera Detention Centre in South Australia. With sojourns to Adelaide as well, somehow this novel retains that sense of the bush all the way through it - regardless of where the characters are situated. Probably because the central character - former Australian rules football player, mining engineer Steve West is a beautifully realised example of an outback bloke. It makes such sense that this laid back, somewhat private man somehow gets himself embroiled in the search for (and the hiding of) a declared terrorist and his younger friend. On the other side of the coin, Kara is well pitched as a deeply committed activist trying very hard to do what she believes is the right thing, with an absolutely take no prisoner's attitude barely concealing somebody paddling darn hard to keep their head above some very murky waters.
These two combining to move Saira Abdiani out of the way of the detention centre guards looking for her, and a bunch of assorted goons and heavies attached to them, makes perfect sense, as does the friends, family and cohorts who step in to assist along the way. The desire to have Saira out and able to tell her story about mistreatment and the gross injustice of the detention system also makes perfect sense, and works as an impetus for Kara, even though Steve's motivation becomes somewhat more personal. The pace of the getaway of Saira, and their fast stepping to keep out of the hands of the pursuer's is really well done - there's not a lot of time to contemplate or take a breath in PROHIBITED ZONE. Which is kind of a pity in many ways as there is much that is sobering quietly built into this tale - revealed as part of the overall action, dropped into the middle of the whirlpool, designed to make you read on for a while then suddenly go ... what the?
A lot of fun to read, PROHIBITED ZONE was one of those books that this reader just could not put down. Afterwards, with hindsight there are also a lot of points being particularly well made. Which makes this one of those crime fiction books that's important - fun, believable, great characters with a sting in the tail to boot.
Steve West, mining engineer and ex-footy star, just wants a dirty weekend in town, but he can't stop people telling him their secrets. When crusading Kara incites a breakout in the desert, Westie finds himself her reluctant accomplice. Soon he's got a runaway asylum seeker in tow, and all the world, it seems, on his tail.
There is a way out - but it's in the prohibited zone.