As she starts her career as an ACPC (Aboriginal Community Police Officer) with the Bluebush police detachment there is a call from the Green Swamp Well Roadhouse of a murder. Elderly geologist / prospector / philosopher, Doc Ozolins, has been killed by a pickaxe still lodged in his throat. The night before he had been fighting with an equally aged prospecting companion, Wireless. With Wireless asleep in the cabin with the deceased and no other suspects it is no surprise Wireless is arrested.
Expected to stay docile while the guys do the investigating Em is not backing down from any man or group of men. Emily, doubting Wireless is guilty, sets out to investigate the death. Being a hard boiled detective has costs. Hyland does not flinch from the consequences of Emily’s actions.
The investigation veers between the primitive bush camps of aborigine mobs, the barely less primitive urban aborigine camps and the comfortable white population.
Hyland sets out the bias and prejudice of the white population to the aborigine people. Dark in colour Emily is far closer to her aboriginal heritage. She does not appear to realize she equally stereotypes and has a strong judgmental attitude with regard to white people.
In common with other remote areas of the world the weather dominates life. In the Northern Territory it is searing heat that occupies the residents. All decisions must take into account the extreme temperatures.
It was striking how people explode in the hot nights. In most of Canada the extreme temperatures are cold with nights being the coldest. There is less violence on cold Canadian winter nights. Freezing dampens alcohol fuelled tempers. It is just too cold to fight outside.
The book delves into aboriginal life with their traditions and connections with the land working well in the story. I did miss their bush craft not playing a significant role in the story
I found myself comparing Hyland’s depiction of contemporary life, especially aboriginal life, with life 60 years ago in the same areas of Australia in the Bony books . Hyland provides wonderful word pictures of the harsh demanding land. There has been no improvement in lifestyle for the aboriginal people. If anything, there has been deterioration. Moving away from their traditional lives has not gone well for the aboriginal people portrayed by Hyland.
I enjoyed the book. Emily is a remarkable character. Unfortunately, I did not like the ending. To say more would be a spoiler. If someone has read the book I would be glad to exchange views by email on my reasons. I will read more of Emily Tempest. (June 13/11)