A renegade aborigine sorcerer is accused of the murder of the Moonlight Downs mob's leader. But Emily, who grew up in Central Australia before going to university, suspects that the old man was slain for more worldly motives and puts her life on the line to find his killer.
Adrian Hyland spent many years in the Northern Territory living and working among the indigenous people. He now teaches at LaTrobe University. Moonlight Downs (published in Australia as Diamond Dove) won Australia's Ned Kelly Award for Best First Mystery.
Australian Hyland's rewarding debut opens with half-aboriginal Emily Tempest returning to the Outback blackfeller camp of Moonlight Downs after years of traveling around the world. Just as Emily is settling in, her dear friend Lincoln Flinders, a highly respected community leader, is found strangled and missing a kidney. The mutilation points to the local sorcerer, Blakie Japanangka. Emily, with the help of police sergeant Tom McGillivray, tries to track down Blakie, who has escaped into the hills. When doubts about Blakie's guilt arise, suspicion falls on several people connected to land ownership disputes, leading to a series of rather unbelievable action scenes. The true strength of this beautifully written novel lies in Emily's ambivalent feelings about her culture and her complex interactions with Hazel Flinders, the murdered man's daughter and Emily's former best friend. Their relationship, and the way Emily moves between aboriginal and white society, provide the tension lacking in the mystery half of the plot. (Feb.)
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January 31, 2009
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