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Book DetailsISBN: 9781471184635
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Book Review: 55 by Mr. James Delargy - Reviewed by CloggieA (29 Apr 2019)
4 stars From the opening pages of his first novel, 55, Irish-born author, James Delargy creates instant intrigue when two men, clearly in fear of their lives, enter a remote Western Australian town in short succession claiming to have barely escaped a serial killer. The details of their ordeals are virtually identical, except that each names the other as the killer, and themselves as number 55.
With his staff of four, Wilbrook’s Sergeant Chandler Jenkins is ill-equipped to mount a search when one of the men disappears, and finds his town overrun by the expensively-besuited Inspector Mitchell Andrews and his slick-looking team of ten. Mitch and Chandler started out in the force together, but ten years earlier, their paths diverged.
Delargy’s protagonist is a young cop with integrity whose focus on the case is blurred by the uncomfortable history he has with Mitch. Chandler chose family life while ambitious Mitch chose a career; now, though, Chandler finds that what he does have is under threat. While Chandler is a believable character (although his self-pity and resentment wears a little thin), Mitch seems exaggerated to almost a stereotype. The minor characters show a little depth but don’t really get a chance to shine.
A secondary narrative details the search, ten years earlier, for a missing bush walker that highlighted how very different Chandler and Mitch were, both as policemen and as people, a difference that seems, if anything, to have amplified over the intervening years.
Delargy’s descriptive prose easily conveys the Pilbara: the dry, searing heat, the desiccated landscape, the vastness, the challenge of distance, and the isolation. Well-articulated, too, are the small-town attitudes, with some sense of, community but also gossip, nosiness, and the disconnection from the city. The resultant boredom evidenced by the younger police officers’ hunger for some excitement.
Delargy certainly keeps his reader guessing about what really happened and whether either of the two are telling the truth as he sprinkles clues and red herrings throughout the story, inserting twists and turns right up to a dramatic climax and the shocking conclusion. A crime thriller that starts with great promise but doesn’t quite deliver. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Australia.
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