DS Harry Belltree ruffled and singed so many feathers in Sydney Homicide in his explosive first appearance (Crucifixion Creek, 2014, etc.) that he’s been rusticated to far-off Newcastle. It’s not nearly far enough to ensure the safety of himself, his blind, pregnant wife, Jenny, or assorted well-connected lowlifes.
Trouble begins with the discovery of a disfigured corpse buried in the muck of Ash Island. As Harry suspects from the first, the late Cheung Xiuying, a galley hand on the coal-hauling ship Jialing, is only the first of a bitter crop harvested from the same unofficial graveyard. By the time garageman Marco Ganis is identified as another victim, Harry’s already managed to arrest Wattle Gulley Mine employee Logan McGilvray for beating his wife, been accused by McGilvray of police brutality in the course of the unquestionably brutal arrest, and antagonized every higher-up on the Newcastle Police. All that’s needed is for him to tie both McGilvray and the murders to all-powerful Nordlund Resources Ltd. NRL is a family firm whose principals might as well belong to the Corleone family. Konrad Nordlund has extended his reach from NRL to the Sydney Times, imperiling the ongoing inquiries of Harry’s acquaintance, investigative reporter Kelly Pool; his brother, Bernard, seems to want nothing to do with the family firm; and their niece, Amber, seems unwontedly eager to bring the whole enterprise down by sharing every incriminating detail she can with Harry. Readers who remember the lethal Crows gang from Harry’s debut will be happy to see that they play an active role in this installment and that they have nothing on the Nordlunds’ ability to wreak havoc throughout Newcastle.
Once again, Maitland plots and writes with furious intensity. Though this second chapter in the Belltree trilogy assumes considerable knowledge of the first and ends as inconclusively as you’d expect, it certainly does a fine job setting fans up for the third and final chapter.