Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Review of The Holiday Murders by Robert Gott (Scribe 2013)

Melbourne, Christmas Eve, 1943, and Inspector Titus Lambert of the Homicide division is called to a large house in which a father and son have been brutally murdered.  He’s accompanied by Sergeant Joe Sable, a young Jewish cop with a heart murmur, who’s been promoted to detective because others have been called up for active service.  Initially they have few leads, but when two military intelligence officers declare an interest in the case it’s suggested that this might be the work of Nazi sympathisers.  Lambert is not convinced that the murders are politically motivated, but it's soon obvious that there is a small group of active national socialists that have not yet been interned who are intent on creating a fascist Australia.  For Sable, the investigation reawakens an interest in his Jewish heritage, and for Constable Helen Ford presents an opportunity to make her mark in a patriarchal police force.  As the violence escalates over the Christmas period, Lambert and his team seek to solve the murders before they induce public panic.

The Holiday Murders is a very competently told police procedural.  The real strengths of the book are the plotting and historical contextualisation.  The story has a nice pace and cadence, and carefully works all the various clues and participants into place, with some nice feints and blinds.  Set in Melbourne in 1943, the story is well framed with respect to the small pockets of anti-Semitism and Nazi sympathisers and agitators who felt the real enemies of Australia were the Jews and communists rather than fascism.  Despite this, the sense of place is a little underdeveloped, giving little flavour of the locale.  The characterisation is nicely done and there is a good dynamic between the various actors, especially Inspector Titus, Sergeant Joe Sable, and Constable Helen Lord.  Overall, an interesting and entertaining read that is hopefully the first in a series.

1 comment:

Margot Kinberg said...

Rob - I'm glad you enjoyed this. I thought it was well-written too, and a solid murder mystery.