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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Reading Notes: No Weather For A Burial by David Owen

The Pufferfish series was one of those fortunate discoveries that allowed me to lose myself in the wonderful beauty of Tasmania while I was also taken through a cleverly plotted series of crime novels featuring one of the most prickly of protagonists. It has been the source of more than a little bit of selfish disappointment that the series only ran for 4 books: Pig's Head (1994), A Second Hand (1995), X and Y (1995) and The Devil Taker (1997).

The astoundingly good news is that after a break of 13 years Detective Inspector Franz 'Pufferfish' Heineken has returned to the job and has featured in the 5th Pufferfish Mystery - No Weather For A Burial (pub. 40 Degrees South).

Also making the return are the rest of Heineken's TPF colleagues Detective Sergeant Hedda Andover of the Drug Squad, his two subordinates Detective Rafe Tredway and Constable Faye Addison a couple of up and comers ready to jump at Heineken's barked command. Then there's Heineken's superior officer Chief Superintendant Walter D'Hayt a man described by the Pufferfish as "a painful stickler, a goody two shoes - we call him GTS - a supercilious, vainglorious prick."

In short, No Weather For A Burial is an incredibly entertaining mystery that features some of the most incredibly descriptive depictions of Tasmania possible. If you don't feel a burning desire to visit the place to see some of the locations for yourself then you're just not trying.

Take the following observation as Franz flies back in to Hobart:

Sheet rain falls across the Organ Pipes of Mount Wellington and the dark
green silhouette of hills linking it to Mount Dromedary. Sunlight slants through
shifting cloud masses. From the eastern shore, approaching the bridge, Hobart
and her outer suburbs, and the pair of flags rippling energetically at
Government House, have a strange unreality about them, a hyper reality brought
on by a massive rainbow. This place is home to the likes of me.

Back to the plot: with Heineken back at work after a stint of long-service leave it doesn't take long for a call to come in to attend a crime scene. It's the discovery of a body found buried on a remote deserted beach (at Outer North Head past Roaring Beach) and the unknown man has obviously been murdered.

This is the starting point of an investigation that begins with a body and not the first clue as to his identity nor how he came to be buried at a beach. The methodical mind of Heineken gradually pieces the mystery together while pressured and distracted by D'Hayt.

From my observation the Pufferfish personality appears to have mellowed just a fraction but the sharp mind and clever deductive process ensures that the story, along with the investigation, flows smoothly. Pufferfish is as sharp as a tack, he sees all and stows it away for future use and only he knows how he's playing the game.

David Owen is a master storyteller and a true ambassador for the state of Tasmania. The state of Tasmania is featured prominently as a vital part of the story and makes it all the more memorable for the forbidding landscapes that are described along the way.

I wasn’t satisfied with reading No Weather For a Burial once. I did something that I have only very rarely done, when I finished the book I turned back to page 1 and I started reading all over again. Not only that, but it was just as enjoyable for the second sitting.
Looking around at the various bookstores it appears that if you want to buy No Weather For A burial you should do so through the publishers.