I love it when books take me to new places – it’s the point of them, after all – but man, do they sometimes bring out my jealous side. Why aren’t I in Sweden crunching around in snow while all my colleagues are murdered? Why isn’t it me who gets to gallivant around London detecting things and going to extravagant dinner parties with thieves? My biggest general mystery in Melbourne’s east is Where Did I Put My Phone, I Swear It Was Just Here.
Anyway, the one advantage of taking a recent slice of time to read almost solely Australian crime books means that this is not quite so unrealistic. Scam artists along the Yarra? That could have been me getting ripped off! Much better. Two books I’ve read recently are set in Daylesford – Sandi Wallace’s Tell Me Why and Robin Bowles’ true crime Smoke and Mirrors, and despite 50% of the previous being actual real crimes, the characters all seem so damn charming that I just want to go and be surrounded by some picturesque landscape and have a cup of tea while trying to avoid being shot at. Tell Me Why surprised me with its charm; lead character Georgie is one tough cookie, slams about the place scolding people and smoking too much, and makes bad decisions – but usually attempts to remedy things before I get frustrated about her. As a writer, Georgie is used to investigation, but nothing like what happens when her older neighbour Ruby asks her to chase up a missing friend who’s missed her weekly phone call. Georgie thinks that Ruby is being overly dramatic, but, desperate to avoid having any kind of serious relationship conversation with her boyfriend, she hoofs it up to Daylesford to see if she can help out. What she discovers there is a town more than willing to ignore a missing woman; a place full of secrets and the frustratingly dashing police officer John Franklin. Franklin has his own problems – a crappy co-worker, a teenage daughter being all teenagerish, and a case where someone is penning vicious notes to local new mothers. It all adds up to quite the rollicking tale, adventurous, dangerous, and with a lot of speeding around in fast cars. Some loose threads aren’t quite tied up and sometimes I wanted to whap Georgie on the nose with the book, but I never really minded because I was having such a grand old time.