Review: The Build Up by Phillip Gwynne

Title: The Build Up

Author: Phillip Gwynne

IBSN13: 9781405048492

My Thoughts:

Phillip Gwynne has previously earned acclaim for his YA/childrens books such as Deadly, Unna? and his most recent Swerve. The Build Up is his debut adult crime fiction novel.
In Darwin, Australia’s Top End, the discover of a body in a billabong might finally allow Detective ‘Dusty’ Buchanan to close her biggest case and put their main suspect behind bars. As the weather builds, another body is found, and then lost, Dusty is feeling the pressure from all sides. Which will break first?
Gwynne has created a complex protagonist, as a detective in the Northern Territory police force Dusty must be both tough and resourceful. She is absolutely no nonsense, rebellious and dark humoured yet there is a suprising fragility about her, her husband has walked out, her mother is critical and she seems lonely. These contradictions have created an intriguing character who you admire and empathise with. It is really only Dusty that we really get to know but the supporting characters are drawn with spare elegance and you get a real sense of who they are, by what they mean to Dusty and how she considers them.
The plot is probably not as strong as it could have been, but it has a satisfying conclusion. The tension Gwynne creates and sustains plays a big part in the appeal of the story.
What is truly commendable in this novel is Gwynne’s ability to evoke the mystique, the brutality, the vibrancy and isolation of the Top End. You can feel the atmospheric pressure of the Build Up (the period just before the tropical monsoon weather hits)as well as the pressure that Dusty is rebelling against. There are some wonderful descriptions and the writing style is both spare and yet evocotive. The tone is distinctly Australian with references and slang that might be hard to translate for readers from elsewhere. It’s rare to find that genuine Australian flavour, too often novels particularly in this genre set in Australia don’t exploit the uniqueness of our country in favour of generic commercial appeal. Gwynne hasn’t compromised and it gives The Build Up an impressive background.
The Build Up is a compelling novel, a followup is a possibility that I’d love to read and apparently a TV series is being made from the novel (by SBS).

The cover image is linked to Google Book Preview where you can read 3/4 of the book as it seems to not be widely available. Search for the title/author or IBSN combination to find somewhere to purchase it near you or check your local library (that’s where I found it)

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: Review: Diamond Dove by Adrian Hyland « book'd out
  2. Trackback: ‘The Build Up’ by Phillip Gwynne « Between a Rock and a Hardcover

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