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This book was a great surprise - a very good surprise. It is possibly the best Australian police crime thriller I have read and is at the top of my list of police crime thrillers worldwide. The reason is pretty simple - this book doesn't include any of the over the top unbelievable rubbish that so many thriller authors use to attract their audience. It is written in clear and mostly simple prose, with great characterisation, solid police work, good intertwining of police and personal plot lines, well researched historical background and above all lots of plot twists which come together with an amazing emotional impact.
The book is set in Melbourne in 1957 when Detective Sergeant Charlie Berlin has been called out of exile in the Fraud Squad to investigate the disappearance the daughter of a rich and powerful property developer which may be connected with a serial killer. Charlie is a great detective but a flawed and troubled character after 29 bombing raids over Berlin and surviving near starvation as a POW. Charlie still has nightmares about witnessing the killing of a Jewish girl by an SS officer. The property developer, a German migrant, has an uncanny resemblance to that officer.
While Charlie and his colleague, DS Bob Roberts start to track down the killer and hopefully save the life of the teenage girl, the book flashes back to the development of the personality of the serial killer via foster homes and abuse at a religious seminary in the bush. The background setting of Melbourne in the 1950's is superbly researched and evocative (I started visiting the city in the early 1960's) featuring Holdens, Essendon's pathetic AFL performance, Jean Shrimpton, mini-skirts, hot pants, no bras, and marijuana,
This not just a crime thriller but also a story about someone who is still struggling with PTSD from the war and family stresses after both his son and daughter have left home under clouds to make their way in life. Charlie reflects "Life goes on. Life always goes on, he knew. Life was a bastard like that." This adds an extra, extremely strong, emotional element for Charlie to cope with as he uncovers clues to the killer.
This is #3 in the Charlie Berlin series and is written so that it can be easily read as a stand alone book. I will certainly go back and read the earlier books in the series. At the end McGeachin leaves us with a seed to a further book in the series which I eagerly await.
5 stars, highly recommended.