Blackwattle Creek by Geoffrey McGeachin

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.