Thursday, May 23, 2013

Moonlight Downs (Diamond Dove), by Adrian Hyland

Another book I've been a bit behind in getting around to, as I've heard good things about Hyland's Emily Tempest books for awhile now.

The immediate comparison for a fan of American mystery fiction is to compare Hyland's writing to that of the late lamented Tony Hillerman, who wrote highly readable and well informed mystery novels set in and around the Navajo lands of the Southwest. Hyland is equally knowledgeable about the aboriginal people of Outback Australia, a part of the world he's lived in and where he's interacted with its  native communities extensively.

Hyland provides the bridge to this world in the form of one Emily Tempest, daughter of a white miner and an aboriginal mother. As Moonlight Downs opens, Tempest has exhausted many of the possibilities open to her in white culture, having taken the Western route of college and travel, and now seeking a lost aspect of her identity, returns to Moonlight Downs, the ancestral home of her "mob". These aboriginal people are not her "skin group" by blood, as her deceased mother came from another part of the country, but they are her people by virtue of having grown up with them. Her essential question is, Is this my home?

As this is a murder mystery, that question gets derailed a bit by a killing early on, and Emily's relation to the victim combined with her feisty and determined nature drive her to pursue the killer. It's a well done who done it which I didn't figure out till  near the story's resolution. But as with many of the mysteries and crime novels I read, it's the 'what else?' that really holds my interest. Hyland uses the genre to talk about the interaction of "whitefellas" and "blackfellas" and everyone in between in an area of Australia that might be best equated to an earlier version of the American "Wild West". As Hyland says in this interview, there is a fascinating mixture comprised of an ancient culture living by myths and dreamings residing side by side with the most recent of newcomers, many of whom have blown into this wild space like sand.

So there you have it--an engaging protagonist (and Hyland is a man who can write from a female perspective convincingly), an interesting terrain that he often takes the time to write a beautiful passage about, and a unique intersection of cultures. And there's even a sequel, Gunshot Road, to look forward to. I only have one question.

What the heck is spinifex?      


  1. Nice synergy! What I found most notable about Diamond Dove is Hyland’s affection for the characters at the same time as he describes their unfavorable aspects.

    I like spinifex, too. But then, I also like sagebrush, tumbleweed, and scrub.
    Detectives Beyond Borders
    "Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

  2. Yes, I thought the two posts worked out particularly well together for once.

    I agree that a couple of the characters that you think may just be one dimensional turn out not to be at all.

    It's funny that our mental image of plants tends to be green and softly leafy when really so many plants are not.

  3. I always had a fondness for cactus, too. We think of plants as cozy, but some of them are pretty hard-boiled.

    I wrote about Diamond Dove in the very early days of Detectives Beyond Borders, and it may have been the first novel I reviewed in my newspaper.

    I've never confirmed this, but I assume the book's title was changed for U.S. publication to avoid confusion with Soho's Peter Diamond novels, which included Diamond Dust.

  4. That sounds possible. I like the American title, though.

  5. The American title works, and the Australian title took in a matter critical to the story.

    I remember thinking at the time that the American cover created the impression of a darker book than this in fact is.

  6. Here is the link to your post for anyone who might be scrolling down here.