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4.5★ “‘Make Good Decisions’ was his new motto. Very new motto. Plastic wrapping just off, a new-car smell to it.
He tries. Caleb Zelic really tries – to make good decisions, I mean. But somehow, he manages to get himself tangled up with the wrong people to the point that he (and I) couldn’t tell the friends from the enemies. Except for Tilda, a clever nine-year-old girl. I was always pretty sure she was okay. He did get into some dreadful trouble in his previous outings, and he’ll always be looking over his shoulder.
Caleb is deaf and even with his hearing aids he relies heavily on lip-reading. It’s a major part of his personality, and I think Viskic does a commendable job of illustrating the kinds of barriers he’s up against. Dark alleys, candle-lit restaurants, moonless nights, beards. And that’s when he’s facing the right way.
When someone walks up behind him in broad daylight and sticks a gun in his back, he’s entitled to be as jumpy as any hearing person would when a prankster sneaks up silently and pops a balloon behind you. He is surprisingly calm, but then he’s used to being in dicey situations and being unexpectedly assaulted.
His wife / almost ex-wife Kat, is her delightful self, and her close-knit family – sisters and their kids – hang around her house and eye him warily. They are Aboriginal and naturally a little suspicious of this white fella who seems to have hurt Kat in the past, but he’s determined to make good – to make good decisions!
I admit that I got confused about who the baddies were. There is white-collar crime and bloody-collar crime, and Caleb was never quite certain which crime belonged to whom, so you can imagine how I fared. There was no respite and little time to enjoy Kat, because he was either chasing someone or escaping from them, and part of the time he had the nine-year-old in tow.
There was also a bit of a side-story involving his old mate Alberto who runs an Italian Deaf restaurant, employing all deaf employees and catering especially to the deaf community. He seems to be being targeted for some reason, attacked and threatened, but he refuses to shut down, worried about his staff.
“‘You know how hard it is for us in the job market.’
Not just the market, but often the jobs themselves. Caleb had hated every minute working at the insurance companies where he’d begun his investigative career. Constant battles about phones and group meetings, co-workers’ irritated sighs.
There is a very entertaining scene showing the other side of the ‘battle’ when he goes to an office, asking to see someone and the woman turns her head as she answers.
“‘Sorry, could you look at me when you speak? I’m deaf. I’m lip-reading.’
She spun back to him, mouth open. ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. You poor thing, how terrible.’
S**t, a mourner. A very loud mourner. Her lamentations had drawn the attention of everyone in the room, including . . . ‘You speak very well, you know. A little quietly, but just like a normal person.’ A meteor, a weapon, something to end this now. . . . ‘It must be so hard for you. Do you know about cochlear implants? My neighbour’s cousin’s son got –’
Caleb looked away until she’d lowered the receiver. ‘You’re in luck,’ she said. ‘Down the hallway to the last office. Do you need help?’ She glanced at [X], who was coming towards them. ‘Or is that your carer?’”
I was ready to drop a meteor on her myself! This has a nice mix of mystery and thrills and warm characters you don’t want to see get hurt. The deafness is an interesting aspect of the stories and makes you realise how much we assume about other people.
As a personal aside, I’ll just mention that some of what I see being interpreted as dementia is largely due to people nodding and smiling inanely at comments and questions because they can’t hear them properly but don’t like to ask people to repeat themselves. That’s especially true of jokes and funny remarks, where you’d feel like a killjoy asking someone to say it again – clearly. Once they’ve lost momentum, the moment has passed.
But I digress. This is much more than a story about a deaf guy – it’s a very satisfying addition to the series about an interesting man and his people (and their people). I look forward to the next one!
Thanks to NetGalley and Bonnier Books for the preview copy from which I’ve quoted.
The third instalment in the series sees deaf investigator Caleb Zelic dragged unwillingly into working with his former business partner in order to save a child's life. This series keeps getting better. Reads as a standalone if you've not read the others