Combined Reviews: The Digger's Rest Hotel by Geoffrey McGeachin

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diggers_rest_hotel.jpg    The Digger's Rest Hotel
Geoffrey McGeachin

[This novel won the Best Novel category at the 2011 Ned Kelly Awards.]

From the publisher's page:
In 1947, two years after witnessing the death of a young Jewish woman in Poland, Charlie Berlin has rejoined the police force a different man. Sent to investigate a spate of robberies in rural Victoria, he soon discovers that World War II has changed even the most ordinary of places and people.

An ex-bomber pilot and former POW, Berlin is struggling to fit back in: grappling with post-traumatic stress disorder, the ghosts of his dead crew and his futile attempts to numb the pain.

When Berlin travels to Albury-Wodonga to track down the gang behind the robberies, he suspects he's a problem cop being set up to fail. Taking a room at the Diggers Rest Hotel in Wodonga, he sets about solving a case that no one else can - with the help of feisty, ambitious journalist Rebecca Green and rookie constable Rob Roberts, the only cop in town he can trust.

Then the decapitated body of a young girl turns up in a back alley, and Berlin's investigations lead him ever further through layers of small-town fears, secrets and despair.

The first Charlie Berlin mystery takes us into a world of secret alliances and loyalties - and a society dealing with the effects of a war that changed men forever.


Angela Savage on her weblog: "The characters are brilliantly drawn, not only Berlin and Green, but a large ensemble cast, which includes the hotelier's family at the Diggers Rest, soldiers in the Bandiana barracks, a dodgy tent boxing troupe, Wodonga's alcoholic doctor, a resident Chinese family, the local constabulary, and others like Berlin, permanently damaged by a war whether they fought in it or not...If I have any criticism of the book it's that Berlin is too much of a good bloke -- his exchange with Neville Morgan, the Aboriginal war veteran, seemed a bit too enlightened for the era. Then again, it's Berlin's depth and decency that enables McGeachin to deliver such a heartbreaking finale to this wonderful book."

Christopher Bantick in "The Weekly Times": "Authentic is a word that comes to mind with this very dyed-in-the-wool novel...McGeachin has an ear for Aussie lingo and he blends it seamlessly into a bottler of a book...This is a book that is hard to fault."

Karen on the "AustCrime" weblog: "The information that came with this book highlights how the author has used the stories of his own father's wartime experiences as both an airman and a POW in Europe, as well as his childhood recollections of growing up in country-town Australia. It's a very realistic portrayal of country Australia - be it in the late 1940's or even more recently (well in this reader's memory anyway). Balance that small-town, closed environment, and the changes that are coming over a society traumatised and profoundly changed by the war and those who did and didn't return, against the individual story of one man who was so profoundly affected by events in Europe, and well, you end up with something that's entertaining, moving and affecting."

Bernadette on the "Fair Dinkum Crime" weblog, about reh audiobook version of the novel: "The historical aspects of the novel are extremely well done; feeling authentic through the use of interesting details but not overblown with evidence of the author's research. Everything from the rationing that the country was still experiencing to the kinds of foods that might have been served in a country pub at that time to the photographic equipment and techniques utilised by the adventurous female photo-journalist that Charlie encounters during his investigation are both accurate and woven into the story seamlessly. Some of the less pleasant aspects of life during the time are also well depicted including the fairly shabby treatment of anyone who wasn't white. It really did feel like I was transported back to the time, a factor helped I think by the excellent narration of the audio book in which the language and slang were pronounced to fit in with the period...With down-to-earth, very believable characters and a strong, enveloping sense of place and time The Digger's Rest Hotel is a top notch work of historical crime fiction."


Kieran Weir on 891 ABC Adelaide.

Joseph Thomsen on ABC Radio Victoria.


You can read an extract from the novel on the publisher's website.

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 2, 2012 6:59 AM.

Reprint: Letter to the Editor: Did "Worser" Become "Wowser"? was the previous entry in this blog.

Reprint: On Lending Books: Some Fears and Scruples by Nettie Palmer is the next entry in this blog.

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