Source: paperback copy courtesy of publisher
Truthfully, it was the cover which first attracted my attention. It’s just so lusciously green! Mystery novels are one of my first book loves so I thought this definitely fit the bill. Also, it being a series set in Colonial Australia, finally! There have been quite a few Aussie crime / mystery series but none in this particular setting (none that I know of, anyway).
The most fascinating factor of this novel, for me, is the setting. The time period and the location as Port Macquarie is a family holiday destination for us so it was interesting looking at it from a summery friendly beaches to an uncivilised harsh environment. The harshness wasn’t just from the natural environment but also the regime employed in keeping the convicts in line. It’s amazing that anybody survive, really! Unfortunately (or rather fortunately for him), as our main character distinguished himself by being literary, he was not part of any work gangs so we are spared from reading much of the suffering.
Most of the characters are also easily likeable especially the main ones. And as the tale is told from Hugh Monsarrat’s perspective, we learnt a lot of his background so it was very easy to empathise with him although at times you do feel like shaking him up a little. Whilst these flashbacks to the past are necessary, they are in effect slowed the pace of the book. And despite the fact that this series is based on Monsarrat, I feel there were too much information on Hugh and barely anything on other characters especially Mrs Mulrooney whom I’m really curious about. I especially enjoyed the cloth-flicking-head habit that Mrs. Mulrooney appear to be getting into nearing the end of the novel and I’m looking forward to more of that.
It is with a heavy heart that I find the mystery factor of the book quite disappointing. I’m not the best at guessing but I don’t think I do too badly at guessing the villain in mystery novels. But there were too many clues that made it all too obvious even if you’re not a professional sleuth. Starting from the covers to the main suspect being a very pointedly red herring… then, when it’s taken awhile for Monsarrat to churn these clues in his little grey cells, it gets somewhat frustrating.
I would recommend that you approach this novel as an historical fiction as it was still a very enjoyable read for me from this perspective. It’s very clear that the authors have done their research though as authors do, have taken certain liberties to suit the plotlines (which they are very open about in the Author’s Note). The view of colonial Australia and the witty exchanges between characters were what made this novel pleasing to me.
Thanks to Vintage / Random House for paperback copy in exchange of honest review