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Thursday, June 23, 2011

How the Dead See by David Owen

After the return of Detective Inspector Franz Heineken of the Tasmanian Police Force in No Weather For A Burial in 2010, David Owen has followed up with another Pufferfish mystery titled How the Dead See (pub. 40 South Publishing).

As with the previous five Pufferfish mysteries the state of Tasmania is once again reeling from a suspicious death and Heineken, along with his team of Detective Sergeant Rafe Tredway and Detective Constable Faye Addison, is charged with the duty of solving the case. In this case the victim is one Rory Stillrock a former Hollywood star who has spent his more recent years womanizing and boozing while attempting to restart his career in the entertainment industry. It’s a high profile death that puts Heineken and his team under the pump.

Also keeping the police busy is the theft of a diamond necklace from home safe that was hidden inside the wall of a mansion in the well-heeled suburb of New Town. The burglary has all the hallmarks as the work of one of Tasmania’s best safecrackers, but the guy has been passing it around for months that he has given the game away. It’s the kind of case that is right up the cluttered alley of the Pufferfish.

As with the other books in the Pufferfish series there are a stack of references to the state of Tasmania and the landmarks that typify the countryside as some of the most picturesque in all of Australia. It is a setting that adds to the enjoyment of the book that makes it as worthwhile to read as the plot of the novel itself. The fact that many of the landmarks are described by Heineken in his gruff, acerbic tone somehow increases their wild appeal.

Franklin’s a charming little place spread thinly along the western bank of the
Huon River. Pub, cafes, antique shop, Victorian theatre building, boatbuilding
school, rowing club, footy oval right on the river bank. Assorted watercraft sit
on the sparkling, motionless water. Behind, the hillsides slope up, largely
cleared but with forested patches increasing further back. Altogether,
Franklin’s about as charming a rural hamlet as you would wish for. 183

It may not be immediately obvious in the way I have described the storyline but there is a crackling humour running through the narrative of the book. Heineken has an opinion about everything and a razor sharp delivery that cares not one iota about the way in which his delivery lands. He gets the job done and he does so in a no-nonsense way that is always entertaining.

I am currently reading the book for the second time, giving myself to enjoy the way in which the story unfolds and the sardonic tone in which Heineken presents his every thought to us. With two cases drawing quickly to their conclusion this is a crime novel that doesn’t muck about, just as with Heineken himself.

It is worthwhile going back and reading the entire back catalogue of the Pufferfish series (click on the links to be taken to my reviews of each book): Pig’s Head, A Second Hand, X and Y, The Devil Taker and No Weather For A Burial. Admittedly, tracking them all down may be difficult and if you find that to be the case you might simply limit yourself to reading No Weather For A Burial followed by How the Dead See.

1 comment:

Lily Mulholland said...

Hi, thanks for the review. I bought No Weather for a Burial from 40 Degrees South 'cause I wanted to support a Tassie crime writer and I'd heard David Owen's books were great. I gave No Weather three out of five; it read a bit clunky to me and I thought it needed a damned good edit. Will probably lay my hands on this one too and hope for a smoother ride this time.