Monday, January 28, 2013
Review of The Diggers Rest Hotel by Geoffrey McGeachin (Viking/Penguin, 2010)
The Diggers Rest Hotel won the Ned Kelly Award for best crime fiction novel in Australia in 2011. McGeachin drops the reader into rural Australia in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War, with its small town politics, social unease about change, and folk traumatised through what they’d experienced or lost. He is especially strong at characterisation, populating Albury-Wodonga with an interesting set of people, all struggling in some way to make do, or get on, or come to terms with the past and the present. In particular, Charlie Berlin and Rebecca Green make for an enjoyable, feisty pairing. Add in a compelling storyline of Berlin investigating a set of payroll robberies by an armed gang and you have a very nice mix - a strong sense of place and historical and social contextualisation, wonderful characterisation, and interesting plot, told through engaging prose. Although the resolution was credible, the only slightly jarring element was the ending, which seemed to come about ten pages too soon and left a couple of threads dangling that are hopefully dealt with in the next book in the series. Overall, a very enjoyable read on several levels.