Cutters End by Margaret Hickey
A scintillating crime thriller, set in the South Australian outback town of Cutters End. A mysterious death on New Year’s Eve 1989 leads to a shocking murder investigation 32 years later…
A desert highway. A remote town. A murder that won’t stay hidden.
New Year’s Eve, 1989. Eighteen-year-old Ingrid Mathers is hitchhiking her way to Alice Springs. Bored, hungover and separated from her friend Joanne, she accepts a lift to the remote town of Cutters End.
July 2021. Detective Sergeant Mark Ariti is seconded to a recently reopened case, one in which he has a personal connection. Three decades ago, a burnt and broken body was discovered in scrub off the Stuart Highway, 300km south of Cutters End. Though ultimately ruled an accidental death, many people – including a high-profile celebrity – are convinced it was murder.
When Mark’s interviews with the witnesses in the old case files go nowhere, he has no choice but to make the long journey up the highway to Cutters End.
And with the help of local Senior Constable Jagdeep Kaur, he soon learns that this death isn’t the only unsolved case that hangs over the town…
Published 17 August 2021| Publisher: Penguin Random House | RRP: AUD$32.99
Buy it at: Dymocks | Booktopia | A&R | Abbey’s | QBD
My Blurb (4 / 5 stars)
Two nights ago, while I (in Sydney) was reading this book, I felt like some orange juice. So, I got myself a glass of orange juice with some ice. Just as finished my glass, the line I read was a thought by a South Australian protagonist;
Orange juice clinking with ice! he thought. Is it a Sydney thing?
A bit of a funny coincidence but one I can’t really answer that question because to me, it was a habit I picked up from hubby as he has ice with whatever drink he’s having. But I just made it seems like the answer is yes though, didn’t I?! Do you have ice with your orange juice? Are you a Sydneysider?
As I drafted this review, I noticed that the description (which I copied from publisher’s website) read, July 2021, but in the book (chapter 2), it is actually October 2021. There was a reference in the book about it being post-covid where our protagonist can travel freely. And here I am, mid August 2021, in 8th week of Sydney’s lockdown and cannot foresee being able to travel anywhere by October either. Such a difficult period in writing & publishing, surely, when you can’t really pretend covid didn’t happen and yet, when do you set the period of your story?! Reckon they should have just set in October 2019 before the world went completely mad.
Our protagonist, Mark Ariti, is a detective with the South Australian police but he is in the middle of his long service leave when he was requested to take on a secondment due to a connection he had with a witness. This assignment took him on a lonely trip along Sturt Highway to interview witnesses and review old case files. Even as he slowly discovered the truth of this mysterious death, the question is what is justice?
While I appreciate Mark as a character as he contemplates aging, purpose in work, and just general philosophising of human nature as he investigates, I find that I’m rather sick of detective protagonists with marriage problems. The author did highlight this issue in the police force so while this is realism, I’m just over it.
Cutters End is a striking outback noir debut as it explores human nature; of secrecy, violence, and justice. It is easily a page turner even as I thought I knew the bad guy, I was completely off-based! So there is that twist on twist to look forward to. And to end with, a question you’d perpetually be asking yourself… what is justice? what would you do in his or her shoes?
My thanks to Penguin Random House for this paperback copy of book in exchange of my honest thoughts
About the author