Gunshot Road: An Emily Tempest Investigation
by Adrian Hyland
Review by Mel Jacob
Soho Crime Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781569476369
Date: 01 May 2010 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Adrian Hylan's debut novel Gunshot Road features a mixed heritage Aborigine woman, Emily Tempest. Smart and well educated, she has joined the police force as an ACPO, Aborigine Community Police Office, to liaise with the Aborigine groups because most of them distrust the police, Set in the Outback of central Australia, the novel features crusty, eccentric miners, rugged loners, losers, and various Aborigine clans.
Relentless in her pursuit of the murderer of an old prospector, Emily struggles to learn the truth. Her superiors believe another old man killed the victim in a fight. Having known both men, she doesn't accept that and finds faint leads that suggest another person did it. Corporate interests and prejudice muddy the investigation,
Aborigines have become displaced people, their way of life no longer tenable. They live on the fringes of white society or on stations, large ranches. Alcoholism and drug abuse remain endemic. Much has changed in recent years with the Australians trying to integrate the natives into modern life. Hylan depicts these communities and their sense of clanmanship with empathy. Their understanding of nature and the Australian landscape help Emily to find the killer.
She has no idea why the victim spent so much time and effort constructing a rock pile next to his shack. A Tibetan refugee, Jet, also studies the construction and cautions Emily the pile means something. She likens it to a map. A large boulder from the hillside behind the shack nearly kills them when it demolishes the shack and destroys the pile.
Thugs try to kill Emily and a young Aborigine boy. Car wrecks and beatings don't stop her. The beatings are severe enough to leave the reader wondering how she survives let alone manages to persist in fighting the villains. The climax provides plenty of action and results in death for some.
Hylan does a good job of humanizing his characters. However, the villains tend to be one-sided. Gunshot Road shares many things with other Soho offerings. The publisher specializes in exotic, often gritty settings, ethnic populations, and plenty of violence. The violence here even exceeds that in Jassy Mackenzie's Random Violence set in South Africa.