It’s 1966 and times are changing, even in rural Victoria. Bob Dylan is on the radio, Elvis Presley on the television. But change doesn’t sit comfortably with everyone in Mitchell and the arrival and brash methods of Detective Gene Fielder and his two junior detectives from the Melbourne Homicide Squad raises temperatures inside and outside the local police station. For Fielder is out for a quick end to the case when there’s little evidence to support his belief that Furnell is the killer. And when his suspect doesn’t confess, Fielder steps outside of the law to get Furness where he wants him.
Fielder’s methods stand in stark contrast to those of Mitchell’s police, led by Senior Sergeant Lloyd Cole and Sergeant Terry Holloway. Cole is methodical, practical and mindful of local sensibilities. For him there is no obvious suspect and in having to deal with the abrasive Fielder tensions soon begin to run high.
As Cole and Holloway grapple with Fielder and a vexed investigation they and their wives, Nancy and Audrey, have their own battles to fight. Cole’s vice is gambling; for Nancy it’s drinking. Audrey Holloway feels trapped in a loveless marriage while her husband is cornered by something much more sinister. When they’re all under pressure the stress of the murder investigation turns their lives upside down. And for one couple their relationship will end in the worst possible way.
While Cole confronts his personal and professional challenges and quietly gathers his clues, the force Fielder applies to his only suspect becomes the spark for another tragedy, inflaming feelings in the town and further escalating the ill-feeling between him and Cole.
It then becomes a race against time for Cole. And how does the spate of home burglaries and nocturnal thefts in town and the earlier disappearance of another girl four years earlier fit in with his investigations? What at first seems confusing, gradually takes shape as the clues Cole has been looking for begin to emerge.
This crime novel explores the fallout of a double murder on a country town. It’s a novel about the rush to accuse, about changing attitudes and aspirations and, ultimately, about believing in your instincts and the pursuit of the truth.