Mystery and crime books from Australia. News, views, reviews, releases and author appearances - crime fiction in Australia. Crime novels, mystery novels, detective stories, police procedural books, thrillers and soft-boiled mysteries

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Simple Death by Michael Duffy

On finishing reading The Simple Death by Michael Duffy (pub. Allen & Unwin) I was struck by the way in which life and death is dealt with depending on the hand that circumstance deals you.

The Simple Death is Duffy’s second novel featuring Sydney Detective Nicholas Troy following on from his impressive debut novel, The Tower. The story starts with the disappearance of a man off the Manly Ferry which is eventually found to be a murder. It is this investigation that occupies Troy’s time, but he is also being troubled by a few other events in his life.

His long-time mentor and friend, Father Luke Corelli is lying in a cancer hospice close to death and facing accusations of child abuse from many years ago. Troy’s wife has moved out of home and taken their young son to Queensland following some of the harrowing events from the first book. And finally, Troy’s immediate superior, Detective Sergeant Jon McIvor appears to be contemplating leaving the force to become a singer full-time. There’s a lot to take in, both for Troy and the reader.

Introduced to the story comes a woman named Leila Scott who has smuggled a drug into the country for her mother who is terminally ill with bone cancer. It is her involvement with a voluntary euthanasia group that appears to somehow tie back to Troy’s case.

Exactly how is a complete mystery.

It is this process that Duffy proceeds to perform with great dexterity. Not only does he deliver a relevant and clever story he does so while expanding on the characters that were first introduced in the first book. Mystery surrounds many diverse parts of Troy’s investigation and with the problem of a boss whose mind is not entirely on the job, the distraction of a wife and son who may never return and the struggle to understand the plight of his friend there is a great deal to hold together.

The Simple Death is more than a crime novel. At times it provides commentary on today’s society and the way in which popular opinion is manipulated. The battle between the law and a merciful death is one of the arguments that is inevitably going to arise when broaching a subject that is far more complex than it first appears on the surface.

It is the issue of euthanasia that makes a lie out of the title of the book, mocking the concept that the death or deaths in this novel are simple. In fact they are all very complex, particularly when tying to come to terms with the motivation behind them and the justifications used in carrying them out.

The Simple Death highlights the fact that there is nothing simple about death.