An Australian federal police officer discovers that some things “you can’t hide forever” when she becomes embroiled in a deadly mystery shrouded for 70 years.
Fans of conspiracy thrillers eagerly await the part when a shadowy figure warns the protagonist, who may know something but is unsure what: “This should be the end of it for you….Do yourself a favour, wait a few years and write a book complete with your own grassy knoll.” But the character never does, and Kate Austin is no exception. “Talented but underprepared,” the officer is installed as the head of a task force investigating the M.I. Boys, a small but “extremely violent, relentless” group whose ranks are growing with recruited “disaffected Middle Eastern youth.” The M.I. Boys are tied to the murders of two undercover agents in regard to a theft of munitions, but Austin begins to suspect that something other than terrorism is afoot as the body count escalates (one character compares her to Angela Lansbury’s Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote, in that, as with Austin, “murders seem to follow” Mrs. Fletcher around). But when a former lover becomes a victim, Austin vows, “Vengeance is my only closure.” Her probe unravels an elaborately tangled plot that dates back to the decades-old murder (ruled an accident at the time) of the Australian prime minister and, 30 years before that, to an Australian desert expedition led by the ill-fated Harold Lasseter. Lasseter claimed to have discovered a gold-bearing reef, adding what one character calls “a touch of Allan Quatermain” to the story. Austin’s intense inquiry leads to possibly sinister goings-on at a supersecret “communications facility.” In Austin, debut author Hahn has created a credible figure formidable enough to shoulder further adventures. He writes potent action scenes with a vivid sense of place. The tale remains immersive in its Australian patois (“You’re on your Pat Malone out here mate”) and landscapes (“The craft had completed a brief pass over the sheer red sandstone cliffs of Kings Canyon and its Wilderness Lodge. On the horizon, they could make out the outline of the monolith of Uluru and the domes of Kata Tjuta”). But context and Google can help keep readers from getting lost. This is an auspicious beginning of a planned trilogy.
A vibrant, intricate thriller with a resolute investigator seeking to expose secrets that involve murder and a fraught expedition.