Set in Queensland, this debut crime novel Double Madness by Caroline de Costa, takes us into a sordid underbelly of psycho-sexual depravity.
As local residents and authorities in Far North Queensland assess the damage in the aftermath of Cyclone Yasi, a woman’s body is found in bizarre circumstances deep in the rainforest.
Cass Diamond of Cairns CIB is on the team investigating the murder of fashionista Odile Janvier and it’s not long before she uncovers a disturbing connection between the victim and the local medical profession.
Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the publisher for review.
De Costa hooks you into poor Odile’s story from page one, piquing your interest with her final resting place amongst a cyclone ravished rainforest in Queensland. From then on she introduces you to the complicated world of small town antics, police investigations, and people with secrets of every sort.
For those not familiar with crime or medical jargon or procedure, de Costa makes it understandable but believable and knowing that the characters know what they’re talking about, even if you may not, makes a lot of difference.
The writing style and dialogue adds a great believability and sense of reality; the voices feel natural, conversations are realistic and not overly formal, characters are complicated, make mistakes, and have their own issues and back stories that come into play. The multiple perspectives allow an insight into the minds of each character, providing new information than what is told to others, and it lets readers determine for themselves what role people may play in this crime.
The story doesn’t focus entirely on the investigation, there are sub plots and character histories explored, and the personal lives of characters keep moving forward while the investigation happens around them. The “psycho-sexual depravity” isn’t explicit either, and only really emerges in the latter half of the book, though there are a few creepy and intense moments and references that make your skin crawl along the way. Everything has a part to play though and every references and detail acts as a red herring and a clue, and the more that is uncovered the stranger it becomes.
The timeline jumps, sometimes months, sometimes years, with each flashback revealing a bit more information or detail about various characters. The entire investigation and format de Costa has chosen is a fascinating exploration about what people get up to in their spare time; with the added bonus of being in a small town setting it adds further complications of not only knowing everyone, but knowing everyone’s business as well.
Switching between narrators and revealing information out of sequence shows the complexity of relationships and the small town environment really well. While the investigation reveals some details, and character flashbacks and thoughts reveal others, there is enough not being told that readers are always guessing and piecing together clues themselves. With everyone a possible suspect you soon doubt your own opinions as credible theories and evidence is found for almost every one.
This is a cleverly written crime novel and one reflective of human nature, the panic and rash decisions of those questioned make everyone a suspect and de Costa ensures you pay attention as tiny details can make all the difference and passing references and meetings may be more consequential than they appear. There are so many theories and possible scenarios running through your mind as you read, and all of them have a chance since de Costa is just vague enough and creative enough to make anything possible. But it isn’t until the end, when everything falls into place, that you realise how clever she’s been and how important those tiny details have been.
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