Stone Town by Margaret Hickey is the second in the series featuring small town cop Mark Ariti. I re-read my review of Hickey’s debut novel, Cutters End, before starting the novel but it really wouldn’t matter if you hadn’t read the first in the series. In fact, this works quite well as a standalone if you were to come in fresh. References to Mark’s former wife and old colleagues are easily shared and understood.
I actually liked this more than Cutters End. I think it’s a stronger ‘mystery’ – less convoluted but still complex if that makes sense. Again Hickey cleverly employs snippets of plot elements – two cases blending into one, but in a feasible and not – ultimately – overly coincidental way.
by Margaret Hickey
Published by Bantam Australia
Source: Penguin Random House Australia
Genres: Crime Fiction
When three teenagers stumble upon a body in dense bushland one rainy Friday night, Senior Sergeant Mark Ariti’s hopes for a quiet posting in his old home town are shattered.
The victim is Aidan Sleeth, a local property developer, whose controversial plans to buy up Stone Town land means few are surprised he ended up dead.
However his gruesome murder is overshadowed by the mystery consuming the entire nation: the disappearance of Detective Sergeant Natalie Whitsted.
Natalie had been investigating the celebrity wife of crime boss Tony ‘The Hook’ Scopelliti when she vanished. What did she uncover? Has it cost her her life? And why are the two Homicide detectives, sent from the city to run the Sleeth case, so obsessed with Natalie’s fate?
But following a late-night call from his former boss, Mark is sure of one thing: he’s now in the middle of a deadly game . . .
Hickey cleverly delivers the two mysteries separately. Mark’s focus is of course on the local murder. There’s really no reason to suspect the missing cop has anything to do with the death of a local property developer. And let’s face it, there are plenty of other suspects given plans for a new proposed development. Until Natalie’s car is found nearby and it seems unlikely that the small communities could suddenly be host to a spate of unrelated crimes.
Hickey’s writing is rich with nuance and a strong sense of place and even me – who visualises nothing – could ‘feel’ myself in that quiet country town as well as the vastness of the outback that is somehow juxtaposed with the smothering ‘smallness’ of Stone Town and Booralama.
She also offers up the small vs big town cop drama we often see, but here it’s with a bit of a difference and there are a few surprises in the bad cop vs good cop game-playing.
I actually liked Mark more in this outing and I’m not entirely sure why. Even though his past featured more in Cutters End, I got more of a sense of him here, and felt more invested.
And I appreciated the ultimate outcome. It’s kinda understated in a clever and restrained (rather than constrained) way.
So I’m enjoying this series by Hickey, which is being compared to the work of Jane Harper and Chris Hammer, and I’d suggest Fleur McDonald as well.
Stone Town by Margaret Hickey was published in Australia in early July 2022 by Penguin Random House (Bantam).
I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher for review purposes.