Blog tour: 7 to 10 October 2021
A small town in outback Australia wakes to a crime of medieval savagery.
A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and Aboriginals, between immigrants and the townies.
Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant Giorgios ‘George’ Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.
Vivid, pacy and almost dangerously atmospheric, The Stoning is the first in a new series of outback noir featuring DS Manolis, himself an outsider, and a good man in a world gone to hell.
Set in the small northern town of Cobb in outback Australia, The Stoning tells the story of the horrendous murder of local primary schoolteacher and widow, Molly Abbott, and the subsequent investigation by city cop, Detective Sergeant Giorgios ‘George’ Manolis, who has been sent to his former hometown to try and unravel this difficult, tension-rising case.
The victim was tied to a gum tree in the copse behind the local football/cricket oval scoreboard and stoned to death and her body was discovered by old Ida Jones, who was on her way to acquire her morning newspaper.
On arrival in Cobb, DS Manolis discovers a town very different from the one he left as an eight year old with his parents. It used to be home to 5000 people but now the permanent residents number around half that. It’s a place that has been in decline for years and there are lots of racial tensions within the town, especially after the new immigration detention centre (called the brown house by locals) was opened. There’s also an Aboriginal settlement on Cobb’s southern outskirts.
Manolis’ new colleagues are Sergeant Bill Fyfe, Constable Andrew Smith (Sparrow) and Constable Kate Kerr. Fyfe spends most of his time drunk and propping up the bar in the top pub (for ‘whitefellas’), rather than the bottom pub (for ‘blackfellas’). It seems like he’s already checked out and is just waiting to either retire or drop dead.
The local police officers were supposed to have contained the crime scene, collected evidence, analysed samples and made some progress in solving the murder but, much to Manolis’ dismay, they seem to have followed none of the expected and required protocol!
Manolis stays with a couple called Rex and Vera Boyd, in their spare cabin, and they remember George’s dad, Con. He recently died and Manolis is mourning his loss. Several other characters in the town are also grieving after the deaths of close family members in recent years.
Lots of the locals spend their time drinking, taking drugs and being aggressive towards each other and the Aborigines, and there are big tensions and reprisals against anyone connected with the immigration detention centre, which is run by a man called Frank Onions.
It all makes for a rather depressing and resigned feeling to the town. The men are prejudiced and misogynistic and the women aren’t much better. People spend their time fighting each other and everyone has given up hope.
As DS George Manolis calmly trawls through the evidence and makes pertinent enquiries, we learn more about the forty-something murder victim and discover that the locals are keeping things from him. Everyone assumes that one of the residents of the immigration centre is responsible for the murder but Manolis isn’t so sure. He’s frustrated that he can’t work out the pieces of the puzzle – there’s something not right about this whole case and various people aren’t being honest.
Overall, I really enjoyed this atmospheric and gritty outback noir novel, with its intense and claustrophobic setting in sweltering heat in a hellish small town. I was gripped as the unconventional investigation unfolded and we learned more about the secrets that the locals and others were hiding. It’s a compelling read and I couldn’t put it down!
This dark and disturbing book makes uncomfortable reading at times, with its descriptions of violence and racial tension, but it’s well written, intriguing and very thought provoking – I was still mulling things over after I’d finished it.
I especially liked the eye-catching and striking cover, which really sums up the story and location and shows the harsh and arid conditions.
I was pleased to see that this is the first in new series and will definitely be checking out the next book to read more about DS George Manolis and see where he ends up next.
Buy the book
About the author
Peter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His writing has been published internationally by The New York Times, Guardian, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Canberra Times, Daily Telegraph, The ABC, SBS, Huffington Post. He also holds an MA in Creative Writing from City University, London, and a PhD in Biomedical Sciences from the Australian National University. His first book, a memoir, Son of Mine, was published in 2019 by Salt.
See the banner below for more stops on the #blogtour.