Monday, January 30, 2017

Review: THE UNFORTUNATE VICTIM by Greg Pyers

Publisher Scribe
Length 394 pages
Format softcover
Published 2017
Series Otto Berliner #1
My Copy Review copy provided by publisher

My Review 
The Unfortunate Victim is a historical crime fiction novel set in Daylesford, outside of Melbourne in 1864. With the gold mining town akin to Deadwood, this outlaw-like frontier on the surface seems lawless, or at least law-ignorant such is the ineptitude of the police force, a unit that had failed to land a conviction for the previous 5 murders prior to the killing of 17yr old Maggie Stuart in a manner reminiscent of Jack the Ripper.

The opening stanza brings the reader up to speed with Maggie; providing a glimpse at marital life during the 1860’s, the simple things that kept her days full and the sheer newness of life in Victoria; nothing short of atmospheric, the town, people, their predicaments and place of residents be it tent or more structurally sound dwelling were clearly articulated, the mud paved streets and tobacco-infused air instantly transporting the reader to a simpler and dangerous time in Australia. The characters introduced at a steady stream at once coming under suspicion for the crime to come; David Rose – a drifter with an imposing and off-putting demeanor, Joe Latham – Maggie’s step father and violent drunkard, George Stuart – Maggie’s much older husband, and John Pitman – co owner of the local brothel with a keen eye on Daylesford’s more attractive members of the finer sex.

Interestingly, Otto Berliner, the protagonist and expert private investigator appears well after the crime had been committed with a suspect in custody; the author having chosen a different take on the structure and flow of the crime novel – providing something different to great advantage. Berliner’s impact is sudden and sharp as a knife, cutting through the inadequacies of the investigation and reading as a likable intellectual bound for series stardom. Along with a dutiful assistant, the future of his Private Inquiry Office surely has more entertaining stories to come.

Readers will note The Unfortunate Victim is a play on words with the meaning fully realized as the novel progresses and draws to a close – I thought this was a clever touch concluding a very good story – one based on a true crime.

4/5 stars – would have been 5 had the court room proceedings not taken up so much space in the middle portion of the story - whilst important, I felt they could have been condensed a little, that said I really enjoyed The Unfortunate Victim and highly recommend it. 

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