Blackwattle Creek

Geoffrey McGeachin

Blackwattle Creek
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Blackwattle Creek

Geoffrey McGeachin

WON THE NED KELLY AWARD FOR BEST CRIME FICTION 2013

It’s September 1957, two days before the VFL grand final, and Detective Sergeant Charlie Berlin, former bomber pilot and ex-POW, finally has some time off. But there’s no rest for Charlie.


A recently widowed friend asks a favour and he’s dropped into something a hell of a lot bigger than he bargained for when he discovers a Melbourne funeral parlour has been burying bodies with parts missing. A Hungarian emigre hearse driver points Berlin in the right direction but it quickly becomes obvious anyone asking the wrong questions is in real danger.

With his offsider beaten and left for dead, witnesses warned off, Special Branch on his case, and people he doesn’t know watching his every move, Berlin realises even his young family may be in danger. His pursuit of the truth leads him to Blackwattle Creek, once an asylum for the criminally insane and now a foreboding home to even darker evils. And if Berlin thought government machinations during World War II were devious, those of the Cold War leave them for dead.

Richly evocative of the period, Blackwattle Creek is a rattling good tale with a dry wit and a sobering core.

Review

Melbourne in 1957 is a place still ravaged by memories of WWII, and police officer Charlie Berlin is a man who is having trouble letting go of his time in Europe as a pilot and as a prisoner of war. Given an unexpected holiday, he plans to build a darkroom for his wife Rebecca and relax as best he can. However, a request by Rebecca to chat to her recently bereaved friend turns his time off the clock into one of the most serious, grotesque and far-reaching crimes he has ever encountered.

Berlin is damaged but healing, supported by his family and friends who may all shortly regret being of his acquaintance while Charlie is on this particular quest. The Cold War is the new terror on everyone’s mind, and what one accidental sighting by a widow at a funeral home reveals is a horrifying notion that the government keeps secrets even worse than who pashed who at the ALP Christmas party.

McGeachin has created the kind of pitch-perfect sense of place that makes you disoriented when you put down your book and find yourself in a world of flatscreen televisions and rising petrol prices. Everything from Charlie’s meals to the idea you could get a parking space anywhere near the State Library of Victoria creates a vivid Melbourne with an undercurrent of mid-century fear and grime. A ripper of a dangerous read.

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