Review: Diamond Dove by Adrian Hyland

Title: Diamond Dove {also known as Moonlight Downs}

Author: Adrian Hyland

Published: Text Publishing June 2010 (first published 2007)

Sypnosis: Something has drawn Emily Tempest back to Central Australia—to Moonlight Downs, the community she left half a lifetime ago. Not much has changed; the barefoot kids are bush mechanics now, but Emily still doesn’t know if she belongs in the Aboriginal world or the white. And trouble still seems to follow her. Within hours of her arrival an old friend lies brutally murdered and mutilated, an old enemy the only suspect. Until Emily starts asking questions.

Status: Read on January 11, 2011

My Thoughts:

I’m so glad that this author was recommended to me and I can’t believe I haven’t run across it before. Its not dissimilar in theme and tone to Philip Gywnnes The Build Up that I read a few months ago in that is a crime/mystery story with a strong female protagonist set in the unique Australian state of the Northen Territory.
Emily Tempest is half white and half Aboriginal and spent the majority of her childhood in Midnight Downs – a black fella camp in the wilds of the territory. After an incident in her early teens, she is sent to the city before finding her way back to the community after ten years absence. Within days the Midnight Downs Camp is destroyed by the savage murder of its leader. For Emily the loss is profound, a man she respects is dead, her best friend has disappeared in mourning and her home has been abandoned. The small measure of comfort she takes in the killer being identified disintergrates when he escapes. Determined to have him brought to justice, she sets out to find the elusive Aboriginal mystic but instead discovers other possibilities and her clumsy investigation will threaten her life.
Emily is a complex and fully realised character, I admire her determination, loyalty and strong sense of justice as much I appreciated her vulnerabilities, pigheaded stubborness and smart mouth. I quickly became invested in Emily’s search for understanding and acceptance of both the murder, and her identity. Her relationship with her father provides some light relief as well as grounds her. Her relationship with Hazel is more ambiguous, there is a dreamy quality that is hard to define. JoJo makes for a convenient lover and tends to remain periphial. Hyland is also able to illustrate the absurd and unique characters who inhabit these outback communities, the rough miners, dissaffected youth, drunken dissolutes and petty officials, however he is also careful to show the other side.
Hyland is able to evoke the distinct voice of the Australian outback without commercial compromise. The slang and ‘fictional’ aboriginal language he uses may be difficult for those unfamiliar with Australian vernacular to translate (though he does include a glossary of sorts)however the writing is finely crafted and I don’t think it poses an issue. In his acknowledgements, Hyland stresses that Midnight Downs and Bluebush are fictional communities yet its possible to visualise the dusty roads, the tin roofed humpy’s, rusted car carcasses and hulking machinery with his vivid narrative. Hyland has a gift for describing the reality of the camps and fringe mining towns in the Territory with a raw honesty, but obvious affection. He captures the brutal magnificence of the landscape with a few deft lines not to mention the unrelenting heat, the flies and the primitive veneer of civilisation.
Diamond Dove is an impressive read, not just for its premise but also for its wonderfully crafted characters, and its ability to communicate the authenticity of outback culture. The second Emily Tempest book, Gunshot Road is just as strong, if not stronger. If you are Australian you must read this and if you are not, read it anyway!

@ Goodreads

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: 2011 Aussie Author Challenge « book'd out
  2. Trackback: Review: Gunshot Road by Adrian Hyland « book'd out
  3. Trackback: Book Blogger Hop & Follow Friday Jan 14th « book'd out

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