An Emily Tempest Mystery by Adrian Hyland
Review: Adrian Hyland's debut mystery set in the Australian Outback, Moonlight Downs, introduces Emily Tempest, a most original and appealing amateur sleuth. Originally published in Australia under the title Diamond Dove, it was the winner of the 2007 Ned Kelly Award for Best First Novel.
Emily Tempest left Moonlight Downs at a young age to see the world. Now, a bit older but not sure she is any wiser, she returns to the community where she grew up. Moonlight Downs is little more than a camp, a station in the wilderness, and when its leader, Lincoln Flinders, is murdered in what appears to be ritualistic killing, the residents quickly scatter leaving little behind. The obvious suspect is Blakie Japanangka, an outsider with a violent temper, who promptly disappears confirming his guilt in the eyes of the authorities. Emily moves to the nearest town, Bluebush, from which she begins to wonder what actually happened in Moonlight Downs. When Hazel, her best friend from childhood and Lincoln's daughter, goes missing, Emily thinks there may be a connection and uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the entire region she once again calls home.
Moonlight Downs is an intricately plotted, at times mesmerizing, almost mystical, novel that takes place in a part of the world few have visited, and even fewer know anything about. Hyland's detailed descriptions of the area's beauty and its vast expanse border on the surreal. But it is character of Emily that is most noteworthy. Wonderfully complex and fully developed, she initially pursues her investigation not out of any obligation to her community, and certainly not because she was being paid for her time and effort, but out of curiosity. Who could possibly have wanted to kill Lincoln and why? It isn't until it becomes personal that she's drawn much further into the case.
To be sure, this isn't the easiest book to read. The dialog and even much of the narrative (written in first person) are replete with Australian and Aboriginal words and slang. A glossary for both is provided at the beginning, but it takes more than a few chapters (which, incidentally, are oddly titled) before a rhythm can be developed. And, though it isn't much of a mystery in terms of whodunit or whydunit, readers will, like Emily, be drawn into searching for answers as to what really happened in Moonlight Downs.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided a copy of Moonlight Downs for this review.
Review Copyright © 2008 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
Soho Crime (Hardcover), May 2010
ISBN-13: 9781569476369; ISBN-10: 1569476365
Location(s) referenced in Moonlight Downs: Australia
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Moonlight Downs by Adrian Hyland — An Emily Tempest Mystery
Publisher: Soho Crime
Publication Date: February 2008
List Price: $24.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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