Review: Larrimah by Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson

 

Title: Larrimah: A missing man, an eyeless croc and an outback town of 11 people who mostly hate each other

Author: Caroline Graham & Kylie Stevenson

Published: 28th September 2021, Allen & Unwin

Status: Read October 2021 courtesy Allen & Unwin

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My Thoughts:

“The police poster has all the grim details. Full name: Patrick (Paddy) Moriarty. Approximately 178 centimetres tall. Black and grey hair. Age seventy. Last sighted at dusk on Saturday, 16 December 2017, when he left the Larrimah Hotel on his quad bike with his dog, Kellie. She’s pictured on the sign too -the red-and-brown kelpie looks young, friendly, with her tongue sticking out.”

To be honest I requested this thinking it was fiction, however Larrimah is non-fiction, a true crime investigation into the fate of a missing man, and the town he lived in.

Larrimah is a tiny outback town, spread over an area less than 1kmsq, in the Northern Territory on Wubalawun land, and at the time of Paddy’s disappearance, the population numbered just 12. It was a few days before he was officially reported missing, and wherever he had gone, he had taken nothing with him but the dog, not even the hat that rarely left his head.

Paddy’s disappearance may have gone largely unremarked by the wider world except no one can make sense of it. In essence this is a ‘locked room’ mystery. A thorough forensics investigation turned up no clues, neither did days of searching by foot, or from the air. Despite extensive police interviews, international media scrutiny, and an inquest, there has yet to be any answers.

There are theories of course. One of the most enduring is that 1 (or more) of the remaining 11 Larrimah townspeople murdered Paddy. Fran Hodgetts, whose home and tea house is situated across from Paddy’s house, was immediately a prime suspect. The two had a long history of acrimony – trading barbs and claims of harassment, but Larrimah is no stranger to feuds. At any one time it seems half of the town is at war with the other, whether it’s over the provision of pies to the passing trade, the leadership of local ‘progress’ committees, the massacre of a buffalo, or the theft of Mars Bars. There is also speculation that Paddy was abducted by drug dealers, swallowed by a sinkhole, or simply did a runner and has started a new life elsewhere.

In an attempt to understand the case, and hopefully solve the mystery, journalists Graham & Stephenson spent five years investigating the story (before this was a book, it was a Walkley award winning podcast called Lost in Larrimah), spending time with the residents of Larrimah, while also endeavouring to piece together a clearer picture of who Paddy was. In trying to answer their questions, this book develops into a portrait of both the missing man and the town of Larrimah, the two seemingly inseparable.

Rich with detail, whimsical and poignant, Larrimah reads like an Aussie yarn with its abundance of colourful, eccentric characters and unlikely sounding events, except this is a true story… well, in so far as the truth can be known.

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Available from Allen & Unwin RRP AUD$32.99

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