Author : Peter Papathanasiou
Title : The Stoning
Pages : 350
Publisher : Maclehose / Quercus
Publication date : October 7, 2021
| ABOUT THE BOOK |
A small town in outback Australia wakes to a crime of medieval savagery.
A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and the local indigenous community, between immigrants and the townies.
Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant George Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.
Vivid, pacy and almost dangerously atmospheric, The Stoning is the first in a new series of outback noir featuring DS Manolis, himself an outsider, and a good man in a world gone to hell.
| MY THOUGHTS |
There is just something about small towns in crime fiction novels that will always grab my attention and let’s face it, any crime fiction fan worth their salt is surely swayed by that opening line of the book description. A stoning! In Australia? For real?! WTF!
The outback community of Cobb is a pretty miserable place, to be fair. It seems the residents feel the same way and so they spend pretty much their entire days in the pub, drinking to forget or just because there doesn’t seem to be anything better to do. This apparently includes the local law enforcement, whose incompetence and uselessness really comes to the fore when there is a brutal killing.
Local schoolteacher, Molly, is found tied to a tree and stoned to death. Fingers are pointing to the immigration detention centre just outside of town. Tensions in Cobb were already pretty high, but now they’re only rising. Yet, nobody seems to be doing much of anything. Detective Sergeant George Manolis is sent from the “big city” to help solve this horrific murder but he is met with resistance and silence pretty much every way he turns. Will he be able to solve who killed Molly and why?
‘The Stoning‘ is a really impressive crime fiction debut from Peter Papathanasiou. It oozes atmosphere and you can almost feel the relentless Australian heat rising from the pages. The murder mystery is a complicated one to solve. Just like Manolis, I often became rather frustrated at the lack of evidence and the apparent lack of interest in Molly’s death. I had a theory but in the end, it turned out I was only half right and the ultimate reveal was far, far worse than my wee feeble mind could have imagined.
There is so much more to ‘The Stoning‘ than this murder though. It is incredibly apt for our times but also lays bare atrocities from the past, ultimately making the reader realise that history has taught us absolutely nothing. This small town is overrun by misogyny and racism. Not just towards the residents at the immigrant detention centre but also their own neighbours, so to speak. White versus black, being the Aboriginals in this case. There are often many uncomfortable moments due to this topic, as is always the case when being faced with the worst humanity has to offer, but they make for one thought-provoking read.
A compelling murder investigation, a brilliant cast of characters (even if there were a few I really wanted to punch in the face), atmosphere dripping from the pages and topics to make you think … there is so much to like about ‘The Stoning‘. Often harrowing, sometimes heartbreaking, always thought-provoking, I thoroughly enjoyed it and I look forward to the opportunity of hanging out with Manolis again.
My thanks to the publisher for the review copy! The Stoning is available to buy.