In Bailey’s debut thriller, a woman’s murder may be part of a deadly power play among politicians in an Australian coastal town.
After an explosion sinks the yacht Golden Stripper and takes the life of its owner, Hunni Clarke, Reef City journalist Paul Baax decides to investigate. The deceased’s sister, Pixi, might be onto something: She’s found threatening answering-machine messages that suggest that Hunni was murdered. But soon other dead bodies turn up, including that of a whistleblower who was primed to be Paul’s source for a story about city administrators’ suspicious deal to rezone a harbor. Paul soon believes that illegal drugs may play a significant part in the crooked rezoning scheme and that all the recent murders—even Hunni’s—could be connected. However, someone thinks that Paul is getting too close to the truth, and one of the journalist’s friends is killed. Bailey doesn’t keep the initial murder a mystery for long; in fact, the persons responsible for Hunni’s death openly discuss it very early on. Despite this, an air of mystery permeates the story, which offers even more murders and a series of orchestrated blackouts in the city. Bailey loads the pages with characters; for example, several of Paul’s co-workers assist him, including the standout Angie Coulter, who’s just as effective as Paul is at amassing information, if not more so. An influx of villains allows for a rather sizeable list of suspects, and a gleefully convoluted plot eventually has baddies pointing fingers at one another. There’s unfortunately not much room for character development, and most are painted with very broad strokes, such as a bad guy who’s drably identified as “a thug, assassin, heroin addict.” However, despite an abundance of corpses, Bailey manages to wrap everything up in a thorough and convincing manner.
A rich mystery rife with whodunit possibilities, undiminished by its surfeit of characters.