Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland
Soho Crime, 2008 (ARE)
Mystery; 322 pgs
Rating: (Very Good +)
First Sentence: I parked my little white ute on the outskirts of the camp and sat there, looking out at the scatter of corrugated iron hovels.
Reason for Reading: The description of this book is what first drew me to it as I was deciding on what to review next for Curled Up With A Good Book. A mystery set in the Australian outback seemed too good to pass up.
Comments: Author Adrian Hyland makes his debut with Moonlight Downs, a novel about a young woman trying to find her place in the world and the murder of a well-respected leader and friend. Emily Tempest has always felt like an outsider. With the death of her mother when she was still a young girl, Emily and her father settled in Moonlight Downs, which would become her home for the next ten years. Taken under the wing of the Moonlight Downs community and spiritual leader, Lincoln Flinders, and befriended by his daughter Hazel, Emily knows no other home until everyone in the community is forced to leave. The people of Moonlight Downs going one way, and Emily heading south to school.
Now as an adult having traveled the world, she is ready to come home, not sure of the welcome she will receive nor if in fact Moonlight Downs will be the home she hopes it will be. Emily has always been a bit of a free spirit, wild and untamed. Most of the community has resettled the area and life has returned to normal. Soon after her return, her old friend and mentor, Lincoln, is murdered, and the people of Moonlight Downs scatter, mourning in their own way, unsure of what the future will hold.
The murder is believed to be the work of a sorcerer, a man Lincoln had been seen arguing with not long before his demise. The police set out on a manhunt in hopes of finding their number one suspect. As time passes and she settles into her new life, Emily begins to question the course of the investigation and is determined to seek out the truth on her own. Her inquiries and snooping soon find her knee deep in more than she anticipated and her own life may now be at stake.
Emily Tempest is not the kind of woman you want to mess with. She may be small in stature, but she is smart and tough. Half white, half aboriginal, Emily has always straddled the two worlds, never knowing quite where she belongs. It is something she has struggled with most of her life; however, you would not necessarily know it because she has a confidence and strength that suggest otherwise. With her wit and candid observations, she proves to be the perfect narrator for this tale.
Adrian Hyland’s novel takes the reader deep into the Australian desert where life is difficult. The land is harsh and beautiful, much like the people who eke out their survival in the rural land, making the best of what they have. Adrian captures both the desperation and the love of a people and land rich in culture and history. He weaves in the spirituality of the indigenous people and does not shy away from exposing racial tensions and political corruption.
Moonlight Downs is a captivating crime novel that brings to life its characters and the land it is set in. Adrian Hyland has proven that he is a great storyteller much in the tradition of those he writes about. Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Wendy Runyon, 2008.
Favorite Part: There is a scene in the book where Emily’s little pickup becomes the victim of a local’s aggression and power play. Little Emily takes matters into her own hand and shows him what’s what. I love Emily’s moxie. She isn’t afraid of much; or rather, she doesn’t let her fear get in her way of standing up for herself.
This is definitely a series I plan to follow.