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by Caroline Carver
Warner Books, October 2002
288 pages
ISBN: 0892967706

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

British author Caroline Carver makes her fiction debut with this novel, Blood Junction. The author drives in motor rallies so it is surprising that her novel, set in rough country Australia, gives only passing reference to cars. Despite living in the U.K. (when she's not adventuring) Carver spent ten years in Australia so it is eminently reasonable she should set this novel here.

The narrative begins with what has of late become almost obligatory: a prologue detailing events of the past. In this case, the past is 1952. A group of whites set upon the family of aboriginal Bertie Mullett. Bertie has dared fall in love with the daughter of one of them and the whites massacre all but one of those Mulletts they could find. The atrocity occurred in Cooinda which thereafter became known as 'Blood Junction'.

Now a switch to the present finds India Kane broken down by the side of the road as she attempts to drive a hired car from Broken Hill to Cooinda, near the borders of New South Wales, Queensland and South Australia. It is harsh land in the heat of summer and she does not have much water. Nevertheless, one car, a BMW, ignores her attempts to flag it down and drives past. Fortunately, another, and far less upmarket vehicle, stops and offers her a lift to the town, which she gratefully accepts.

India's rescuer is Tiger and she explains to him that she is meeting her friend Lauren Kennedy in Cooinda so they can go on a trek together. Lauren wanted to meet in that town because she thinks she has found a relative of India's:her grandfather.

India is unable to find Lauren and the next day is horrified to be arrested for the double murder of Lauren and Tiger. Rough justice rules in Cooinda and almost everyone presumes she is guilty... except the little aboriginal girl, Polly, whom she has befriended. The brutal cop in charge throws India into a cell already occupied by large and rough seeming Mikey the Knife, in order to soften her up and force her to make a confession.

The body count in this tale is high. The first part of the narrative is involving. The themes are topical and very interesting. The book deals with the infamous acts of earlier Australian governments in removing mixed race children (the so-called 'stolen generations') from their natural families and placing them with white families where only the lucky few were cared for adequately rather than exploited and brutalised. Another, important, theme is the ethics, or lack thereof, of large drug companies (or in this case, a cosmetic company) in testing new products.

I found the first part of the book deeply engrossing. Along the way, my interest waned. The peripheral action was good but I found the author telegraphed the secrets and solutions too blatantly. A little more subtlety would not have gone astray. Unfortunately, the main theme was - to put it politely - unconvincing. Perhaps the author should have spent more than ten years getting to know the country and its indigenous peoples so that she could have hatched a believable plot that at least sounded authentic. This having been said, I hope Caroline Carver does produce another mystery (though please, not a series) since she shows a great deal of potential. Next time, perhaps, she should look for a locale and a people of whom shehas more than a superficial knowledge.

Reviewed by Denise Wels, December 2002

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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