Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Guilderton, small town Australia. The kind of place where nothing happens and where the best thing about it is the road out. It’s about as far removed from the image of the sun drenched beaches of the Gold Coast as you can get. The town, dying from within, is only sustained by the tenacity of its residents and local farmers. In short a people who keep to themselves and regard strangers with jaundiced suspicion.
Into this world returns Detective Bart Moy, one time local who left to join the big city police force. Leaving the glamour and bright lights of the big city behind he’s back essentially to take care of his argumentative sickly father. The truth however is that Detective Moy is running from his own ghosts and hopes in Guilderton to find some peace from his demons. Demons which will pursue him as the novel progresses.
The novel opens with the local butcher reporting what seems to be a child abduction in a back lane behind his premises. He’s sketchy and not too sure about what he’s seen. Could it just have been a case of a boy playing truant and an angry over exasperated father? Possibly but nevertheless Detective Moy seems compelled to investigate.
As the story progresses a series of seemingly unconnected incidents a body discovered on a coastline miles away, a burned derelict building found to contain the corpse of an unknown woman are bound together. From working the case we discover that Moy isn’t exactly welcomed back with open arms. The locals are hardly in awe of their returned prodigal. He’s a stranger now, too long away to be one of them. Moy has big city ways and he regards the town with the haunting nostalgia of his youth.
But Moy is haunted by many things. The death of his child in an accident he himself was the cause of, the end of his marriage, a career that’s stalled and the health and well being of his father.
One of the strengths of the novel is the relationship between Moy and his antagonistic father George. Throughout there is a genuine feeling of fondness and affection between father and son. Yes they do rub each other up the wrong way. Yes there are words between them, sometimes the verbal exchanges are harsh. The dialogue between the two men is sharp, crisp and to the point, not one word is out of place. Without doubt this is one of the strengths of the novel. Overall there is a feeling that here are two men who both admire and respect each other. Both care how the others doing, both lookout for each other.
Sincerity is a strong point in the novel. When Detective Moy is confronting his demons the reader gets a genuine feeling of a man to overcome the horrors which torment him. Here is a character tortured night and day by what has been taken from him.
As the case continues the characters background is slowly drawn to the surface. We learn the back stories and as regards family history all is not as it seems.
One Boy Missing by Stephen Orr is a crisp sincere novel, which, in this part of the world, will serve as an excellent introduction, to a class writer.