When Detective Sergeant Mark Ariti is seconded to a cold case in the South Australian town of Cutters End, he takes the case partly out of intrigue and partly out of boredom. A few days after New Year’s, 1990, a burnt body was found next to a car on the side of the highway and was ruled an accidental death, but not everything about the nature of the man’s death added up. Now, thirty plus years on, lobbying by a local celebrity has led to the case being reopened. Mark is pulled off of his long service leave to help out, in particular because two of the witnesses were his high school friends - and because the police in charge think there’s something Ingrid and Joanne aren’t telling them.
Soon, Mark and his Cutters End compatriot, Senior Constable Jagdeep Kaur have uncovered more than one secret in the small outback town. Cutters End
is the first novel by author and playwright Margaret Hickey, but it won’t be her last. Mark Ariti is set to return in a follow up book recently announced by Penguin Books Australia, titled Stone Town
. Perfectly paced and peopled with complex characters who feel like they live and breathe outside of the covers of a book, Cutters End
is a worthy addition to the growing outback noir genre made popular by writers like Jane Harper and Chris Hammer. While at first, it’s hard to like grumpy (and often hungover) Mark, readers will quickly come to appreciate that he is a lead character who follows his own moral compass rather than sticking to the letter of the law. While there are glimpses of the stereotypical hard-boiled detective type in him, rather than being shut off emotionally from the people around him, Mark is not only a good detective, but he’s also trying his best to be a good husband, a good dad and a good friend. Of course, he doesn’t always get things right.
This is one of those crime novels which is perfectly paced to keep you up reading long past your bedtime, breathlessly turning pages in the hopes that you might be able to figure out the truth before the answers are revealed. It also has a rich, satisfying country town setting. You can practically feel the heat slapping you in the face as you read.
Reviewed by Emily, Librarian.
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