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Saturday, June 16, 2007
Author : Felicity Young
Publisher : Fremantle Arts Centre Press
Date Published : 2007
ISBN-13 : 9781920731137
Sub-Genre : Police Procedural
Setting : Perth, Australia
Protagonist : Detective Stevie Cooper
A brazen killer is on the loose in Australia's western-most capital and the Perth Police Force is under unprecedented pressure to catch him in Felicity Young's electric thriller An Easeful Death. Actually, I used the word thriller just then - and there are heart-stopping moments littered throughout the book - but an arguably more apt description of the book would be to call it a whodunit to pay tribute to the superb way that the list of plausible suspects is built and maintained.
A young woman is found dead outside a Perth bank. It's a bizarre crime scene, shocking for it's public display, but notable for the fact that the body has been spray painted bronze and posed sitting on a bench, chin in hand as if in deep contemplation. Written in black marker down one of her thighs are the words "An easeful death."
Detective Stevie Cooper, and the rest of the Perth Serious Crime Squad understand that they are dealing with a very organised killer who has meticulously planned and carried out a murder and then taken the time and the risk of disposing of the body in a public place. There is even evidence that the killer returned to the body to remove props that held the body in place while rigor was setting in.
Having been burnt on the handling of a recent string of prostitute murders Inspector Monty McGuire immediately calls in a criminal profiler from interstate. The profiler in question is James De Vakey, a quietly composed man who specialises in reading people, a trick he insinuates upon Stevie when she unwillingly gets the job of picking him up from the airport.
A second posed corpse, this time painted completely silver is discovered in the bedding department of a city store, sends the investigative team into uproar. The victim is someone particularly close to one of the detectives, in fact, there is evidence to suggest that they are looking for someone who has access to records that have come directly from the police themselves. Again the murder appears to have been carried out by a particularly organised person and the placement of the body also suggests a significant level of confidence.
A bronze body, a silver body...how long before they find a gold body?
A grim air of expectancy settles heavily over the story thanks to the nature of the murders and there is a strong sense that there are more to come. But there is an immense measure of uncertainty surrounding the case because whoever the killer is had inside knowledge that is only available to the police. Everyone is a potential suspect and it's on this critical point that the success of the novel hangs.
It becomes apparent pretty quickly that the officers within the Serious Crime Squad share more than the normal working relationship. Inspector Monty McGuire and Stevie go back to their childhood days living in rural Western Australia when McGuire came to live with Stevie's family. They share a strong, sound relationship that proves to be particularly binding and so you find that they are able to provide a much closer dynamic as the case unfolds which proves to play an integral part to the story.
This dynamic is made even more obvious with the introduction of profiler James De Vakey who tends to insinuate himself into Stevie's presence at every opportunity. There is no doubting the experience he adds to the team but, as the case progresses and the suspect list continues to grow, there are some real questions as to what he is actually doing there.
Along that particular line, Young sets up a broad range of convincingly plausible suspects to choose from when trying to select the identity of the killer. Plausible, yet each and every one of them appears as unlikely a killer as the next with just enough mystery surrounding each of them so that they can not be discounted. This can't be underestimated for the power that it gives the story both in its believability and the effect it has in drawing the reader forward.
As you would hope and expect, there is a very dramatic conclusion to the investigation in which, lets just say, not everyone comes out smelling of roses. Felicity Young has produced what looks to be the makings of a strong police procedural series featuring a protagonist who still has a secret or two to reveal.
For more reviews of Australian crime and mystery novels, visit the Australian Crime Fiction Database.