Review: The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland

Title: The Night Whistler

Author: Greg Woodland

Published: August 4th 2020, Text Publishing

Status: Read August 2020 courtesy Text Publishing/Netgalley

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My Thoughts:

 

The Night Whistler is an impressive rural crime fiction debut from award-winning screen writer/director Greg Woodland.

Set in the summer of 1996/1967, in a small country town in the New England District of NSW, The Night Whistler begins when newcomer twelve year old Hal and his younger brother, stumble across a dog, with its skull crushed and throat slit, stuffed in a barrel near a derelict caravan. Situated near a creek Hal dubs ‘The Crack in the World’, the caravan is a source of fascination for the boy, particularly when he learns of its macabre history and the evil spirits said to dwell there from new friend Ali. But it’s not ghosts that worry Hal, it’s whoever is prowling around their yard late at night while his father is travelling for work, and making anonymous phone calls to his mother, whistling ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’. A mystery Hal, who is a fan of Sherlock Holmes, is determined to solve.

Sharing the narrative with Hal is Constable Michael Goodenough (pronounced good-no), a disgraced Sydney homicide detective demoted and exiled to Moorabool, he is the only officer concerned by the violent death of several pets, and the incidents plaguing Hal’s family. His experience tells him the two may be connected but his lazy and venal colleagues seem determined to brush them off as harmless incidents.

Woodland takes his time to set the scene, his experience in film writing coming to the fore in creating a vivid sense of time and place. With broad but precise strokes he brings the town of Moorabool and its residents to life, before delving into its many secrets.

Hal and Goodenough work well as a team, the contrast between the fierce and idealistic boy, and the world weary Mick engaging. I’d like to see Goodenough again, though clearly struggling with the reason for the recent implosion of his career, an impending divorce, and separation from his daughter, he is a good man, and a good police officer, who can’t ignore his instincts.

As the violence escalates and the mysteries deepen, so too does the tension. My heart was in my mouth during the last quarter or so of the book.

Compelling and thrilling, The Night Whistler is a terrific read and I hope for more from Woodland.

 

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