TAMAM SHUD - THE SOMERTON MAN MYSTERY - Kerry Greenwood
In TAMAM SHUD: THE SOMERTON MAN MYSTERY, Kerry Greenwood has taken the opportunity to look back. At a case that continues to remain unsolved since the body of a man showed up on a beach in Adelaide in 1948. At the traces of the investigation that remain. At a much loved father. And finally, at some of her own crime fiction, written around the same case. This approach is undoubtedly going to make this book quite a polariser. It's obvious that some readers will love it, and some readers will loathe it. I suspect both of those camps are going to take up their position with comparable passion.
Obviously the case of the man on Somerton beach is fascinating. Not only does he remain completely unidentified, his cause of death is still unknown. Part of that could be because investigative techiques in those days were not as fully supported with DNA, high tech communications, advanced forensic and medical techniques and so on, but partly it could also be because the man, whoever he really is, did such a good job of obscuring his identity. He simply arrived in Adelaide, deposited a suitcase with items that also didn't help in identifying him in a luggage storage locker, and appeared on the beach dead.
The story was originally told to Greenwood by her much loved father. A story weaver in his own right, it doesn't take a lot of thought to work out where Greenwood got her ability, the book is very much a meandering through her memories of him, his time in Adelaide, a bit of the facts as they are known about the case itself, some speculation and a reprint of a crime fiction short story featuring Greenwood's well known character Miss Phryne Fisher. I suspect the speculative aspects are going to drive some readers nuts, although I found them interesting and certainly very thought-provoking.
I must admit I found the tone, and the nature of TAMAM SHUD interesting and enjoyable. Greenwood has a particular way of telling a story which can be quite engaging, and whilst there's absolutely and utterly nothing new that can be proven about the Somerton Man by this book, there also seems to be absolutely and utterly nothing wrong with casting a little light on a true, real-life mystery, and posing a few what-ifs.
In 1948, a man was found dead on an Adelaide, Australia, beach. Well-dressed and unmarked, he had a half-smoked cigarette by his side, but no identity documents. Six decades later, the Somerton Man's identity and murder are still a mystery. From the missing labels from all his clothing to the tiny piece of paper with the words "Tamam Shud" found sewn into the lining of the dead man's coat, this cold case is brimming with facts that are stranger than fiction. Written by one of Australia's best-known and most loved crime writers, this book uses pieces of the author's own past in an attempt to solve this crime, uncovering a new way of writing about true crime and about herself in the process.