Reading Down Under

Good Murder by Robert Gotts

My first Ozzy novel has the plus of being both written by an Australian and being set in a real Australian Town.
Good Murder takes place in Maryborough, Queensland during the second world war, in which time the community has been bolstered by the need for materials they provide. Into this town steps Will Powers, an arrogant and stubborn actor with delusions of grander. From the word go you have your suspicions that Will may not be as great as he enjoys to presume, nor that those he is surrounded by are as foolish, yet our discovery of his hopelessly unlikable character is not to the detriment of the story. The whole story is told from his perspective and, in moments when he is alone, we almost agree with how he feels the world is, only for this to come crashing down when other characters point out his flawed vision (a fact only we, not he, can recognise.) Will’s perceptions are flawed but still able to be appreciated, his opening lines to the book about the young woman he is accused of murdering are particularly harrowingly close to the bone.
We are shown the town in a pretty restricted light, only main players getting to be identified although when they are it is done with surprising speed and effectiveness. The current of the war is there but it does not overpower the story in any way, as Will himself points out the average person in rural Australia was more deeply affected by a lack of butter and sugar than anything else in war time. This fact is quite surprising for an English person to grasp, especially one from Plymouth, the second worst bombed city after London. I have read many war novels but this one is both uninterested in the war and yet the war is a dependent part of the story, it brings out the best qualities in the resourceful chef Tibald, it brings out the worst in the young Fred and it’s simply always there in a way that is not often written by authors.
The story is the standard murder mystery, told from an imperfect narrator. The time line can often become blurred with Will referring back to events and forwards as well to things that haven’t happened and this does not degrade the story but does make it all the more complex to the reader. What I enjoyed most about Will’s attempts to clear his name (because he is far better equipped than the police…) is that he makes obvious mistakes and yet they are mistakes any person would make. He allows himself to become stupidly entrenched in his own case and gains an impressive amount of injuries, never failing to learn absolutely nothing from his mistakes. This is no Sherlock Holmes, this is the mess we would all make if we attempted to solve a murder if we were a suspect and I love the originality, so far removed from blockbuster films of the same general story-line.
Overall this book is deeply enjoyable, especially if you wish to read a murder mystery that’s a bit different. The characters are well developed and introduced to the point of familiarity almost without you even noticing. Will became a dislikable character to me by the end simply because he showed no remorse for any mistake he made but that may be a service to the Author for making such a realistic and dislikable character but a good enough story that I still finished the book!


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