Fullers Publishing, Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, 2017
This is the ninth of David Owen’s Pufferfish series, a complex winding story which delves into all kinds of seedy and nasty aspects of criminal activity and human behavior without, however, giving us the creeps. It is David Owen’s rich sense of humour that keeps us grounded in this story of murder, violence, cruelty, drugs, deception and betrayal.
Whilst humour is not necessarily part of crime fiction, it seems that the best of the genre’s authors demonstrate a healthy sense of not taking themselves entirely seriously.
This is not to trivialise this story. It is a great read that rips along at a pace and keeps the reader guessing nicely till the denouement.
David Owen has a strong sense of place and it is good to see him staking a claim for the validity of fiction taking place in Hobart – and by inference other places not high in the public psyche as ideal sites for stories of wickedness. His large cast of characters, both major and bit, are satisfyingly drawn and we are invited to explore themes outside crime, reaching into bigger Australian questions of identity and land.
Franz Heineken, it seems , has settled into a comfortable and familiar character in this ninth book, perhaps not so deadly as his nickname might suggest, and allowed many touches of sensitivity and some gentle endearing flaws. His business, however, of crime detection, is never painted as anything but grim and ruthless, and so we are relieved that he lives on to solve another day in book10.