Canticle Creek by Adrian Hyland

Leading Senior Constable Jesse Redpath thinks she has the lie of the land about right in the Northern Territory town of Kulara by now. After replacing the useless-to-actively harmful last cop in town, she’s more open to what’s important so when local larrikin Adam Lawson commits something a bit more illegal than usual, she tries to offer him a way out: helping her artist father and working in the local roadhouse. When Adam makes a run for it after a week on the job, Jesse puts out a warrant and thinks no more of it. Three months later, he’s found dead in the mountain ranges north-east of Melbourne, in a car wreck, after killing his girlfriend. But Jesse and everyone else in Kulara have their doubts. Adam was a rascal, sure, but a murderer?

Full of questions, Jesse travels to the area of the crash, just to make sure what local police say happened is what really went down – and that she didn’t just let a murderer run free to Victoria. What she finds in Canticle Creek are a whole lot more questions, along with breathtaking surrounds, talented artists, nosy teenagers on horses, drug dealers, roadside assaults, blazing fires – well, you get it. It’s everything you need for a rural police thriller, and a hell of a lot more, too.

Jesse is a character to watch: tough as hell and unafraid to make some questionable decisions to see where they’ll take her. You’ll rarely disagree with her choices, though. She kicks the bad guys where it hurts, fights for what’s right, and has some rare qualities for a literary detective: general goodwill towards the world, a lack of cynicism and no addiction issues. Thanks to the knowledge of those who came before her, she knows when and where to listen. It still doesn’t stop multiple people from trying to kill her as she finds out what could have led to Adam’s death – and the others that follow – but what’s a crime book without some danger? Canticle Creek is a truly entertaining and distracting read as Melbourne heads into the (metaphorical) fire of an uncertain, lockdown-less future.

Fiona Hardy is a bookseller, author, and our monthly crime fiction columnist.

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Canticle Creek

Canticle Creek

Adrian Hyland

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