Top positive review
Tale of a crusading Melbourne journo
Reviewed in Australia on 1 December 2021
I’ve just read three Australian crime novels in quick succession and this was by far the best. It was also the longest. It concerns Oli Grove, a journalist in her late thirties who 10 years previously covered the murder of a university housemate. One housemate disappeared. The third was charged and did jail time, but there’s always been a question about her guilt. Ten years later, the case comes to public notice again as new developments come to light. Oli is asked (told) to work with Cooper Ng, a chatty tech whizz kid who at first tries her patience, and who comes up with the idea of making a true crime podcast - this being the digital era when traditional print news is dying. The novel flips back and forth between the two time periods and we learn that Oli had a tempestuous affair with a married man - a high flyer - who was married to a detective on the original case. That woman was later killed and Oli is now his fiancée and uncomfortable stepmother to his twin girls. The case ends up being bigger than Ben Hur against a backdrop of extreme corruption from the former Victorian premier.
Regardless of the believability of the plot, Bailey does an extremely good job of showing us how journalists work. It says something about our political cynicism that stories of extreme corruption at high levels have us barely turning a hair. Personally, I think the book would have worked just as well if it hadn’t been so extensive. The interplay between police and media is also well done. Where Bailey shines in comparison with other authors is in her creation of complex characters: there’s no problem believing in them as real people. Oli’s fiancé, for example, comes across as showing a few signs of incipient abusiveness. There is a big denouement, which would play well were this a movie. There’s only one point where I thought Oli’s deductions were a forced plot linkage. All In all, Bailey is clearly one of our better thriller writers and in this long book there’s plenty to get your teeth into.