A killer in Docklands
By Rhonda Dredge
Two bodies have been found a week apart by the Moonee Ponds Creek as it enters Docklands not far from COSTCO.
Cindy, the wife of a detective at the Missing Persons Unit, has just started a new job nearby.
The job at District Docklands has been lined up for her by a creepy photography tutor.
As Cindy gets out and about to take distinctive shots of the suburb, she’s led into the bushes by the creek.
Is her tutor really showing her where to take the best shots of Docklands or is there something more sinister going on?
Sticks and Stones is a debut novel by journalist Katherine Firkin, a former police reporter for the Herald Sun and it offers the reader many satisfying false clues and coincidences.
Firkin follows a growing line of ex-journos from that newspaper who are taking to crime fiction, including Karina Kilmore with Where the Truth Lies and Jane Harper, who wrote The Dry and has just released her third mystery.
Inevitable comparisons will be made with the best-selling The Dry as these Melbourne crime chicks begin staking their own territories.
Some liked The Dry because the lead character, a policeman, had a secret past that added texture to his personality and the narrative.
The characters in Sticks and Stones are not of this ilk. The protagonist Detective Emmett Corban is an over-worked cop wanting to get home to see his son’s first footy game.
The everyday professionalism of his relationships drives the book, directing the reader’s attention to plot rather than mood.
There are a few sparks in the police station but always in the service of the investigation which builds slowly as the police team make connections between victims and their families.
It is not until chapter 16 when the phone of one of the victims is tracked to a teenager thatsuspense is activated.
Did a young cop muck up their investigations at a time when two sexual predators were on the loose?
We know that there is a forlorn loser somewhere in this cast. His profile has slowly been built. Will his identity converge with that of the killer? What about the title Sticks and Stones? Does this give away his identity?
There are plenty of shifty males who could be guilty and a number of young, gullible women looking for happiness and a break from child-rearing who could be the next victim.
Crime fiction aficionados like to be misled. The unexpected killer in The Dry was one of its big pluses and Sticks and Stones has this in common.
There are gripping moments of tension and the police interrogations are believable, particularly when the teenager admits to another assault during questioning on the murders.
The novel plays for the kind of realism depicted on a typical TV police procedure but with the added bonus of actual locations being identified.