Caroline de Costa
Margaret River Press, 2015
My mother, Megan, is an avid reader of crime novels, so when a new one gets sent my way, I defer to her higher knowledge of the genre... here's what she has to say about the new crime novel published this year by local mavericks, Margaret River Press
Caroline de Costa’s first crime novel takes place in and around Cairns in Far North Queensland in the aftermath of Yasi, a category five cyclone which made news around the world due to its level of destruction.
Dr Tim Ingram and his wife discover the partially decomposed body of a woman in the aftermath of the cyclone, a woman who was not a cyclone casualty. A missing husband, an abandoned car, a fortress home where the impeccable garden has not been cleaned up after the cyclone, and a bevy of doctors and specialists associated with the local hospital provide mystery and intrigue. Local Detective Senior Constable Cass Diamond, recently relocated to Queensland with her son, has a central role in untangling the complexities of the crime, and its antecedents, while seeking to identify the dead woman, and manger her own personal life.
The descriptions of Far North Queensland are carefully crafted, and as one who has never been there, offer beautiful scenery including sounds, sights and smells of the tableland. This is an asset which, combined with the aftermath of Yasi, provides a great setting for the story. The descriptions of the hospital preparations as Yasi approached, and the forays into the bushland around Cairns provide interest and intrigue beyond the main story.
There were a small number of factors which did not sit quite right. The title of the book and the psychological disorder explanation at the opening of the book made the solution to the mystery less than surprising. The title alone would not have been overly revealing, and the explanation of ‘Folie a duex’ should have been placed later, perhaps in the dialogue. This, explaining things too early, and providing a little too much back story was a factor in the book which do not suit me. I tend to find such approaches contrived. One main example of this would give away a key tenet of the story so I will refrain, but I tend to prefer the questions to arise for me as the story unfolds, and details of character backgrounds to be revealed without too much “storytelling” before they are needed, an approach which was a bit more subtly carried out with respect to the Hermes scarves in the story. However the premise for the crime, the discovery of the body, and the police investigating the crime are believable, and the trail from crime to resolution kept me reading.
Despite my reservations I found this a relatively easy read. I can see how Caroline de Costa’s medical knowledge has assisted with the development of the plot, and it is clear that she loves the landscapes around Cairns. I will be interested to see the future development of Cass Diamond as a lead character in subsequent investigations.