Rich, compelling adventures set during the Australian Gold Rush in the late 1800's. When Darcy Buchanan, a member of Australia's elite ``squattocracy,'' dies, leaving his half of Caravale station--a cattle ranch--to his fiancÇe, Perfection Middleton, ``Perfy'' leaves the civilized comfort of Brisbane and heads north to deal with her legacy. Accompanying Perfy is Diamond, a nervy, educated black who lives with ``a foot in both worlds'' and who's in search of her true home, from which she was taken as a child. Lew Cavour, the sea captain in love with Perfy, longs for home too, an England he's never seen, ``that green and verdant land, a lawful, gentle country.'' The lives of the three will collide in a changing--and increasingly lawless--Australia, once a disreputable continent of penal colonies, now made more attractive by the discovery of gold. ``Spurred on by the all-consuming competition for gold,'' European and Chinese diggers rage through the country as if it were uninhabited, heading toward the ``mother lode,'' the Palmer River; brimming with gold, it inspires greed, madness, and violence, feeding an addiction ``worse...than liquor or gambling.'' Here, it's ``every man for himself'': the one who profits is the one who stays alive and walks past ``the emaciated bodies of men who had starved to death...bags laden with gold still bound to the corpses.'' But the real victims are the ``blackfellers'': the ``tame'' Aborigines who live in desperation in slums on their own land and those who die fighting for what is theirs. Well-balanced, unsentimental, vivid portrayal of the taming of Australia's Wild West.