Douglas has been a professional food writer since 1986. He is also an award-winning actor and director in Community Theatre and has been for many years. His blog may be found at: www.urbaneguerilla.wordpress.com
Published August 2nd 2015
Barry Maitland is arguably, or at least I'm prepared to argue the case, one of the best crime fiction authors writing today.
Dr Barry Maitland (Photograph courtesy B Maitland)
His Bright Air is, in my opinion, one of the best mystery stories ever written - up there with Josephine Tey's Miss Pym Disposes and Dame Agatha's The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.
He has created in the Brock and Kolla series a couple worthy to stand next to Holmes and Watson or Harriet Vane and Peter Whimsey. beginning with The Marx Sisters the two have combined intriguing mystery with excellent writing in a seamless, brilliantly written series.
Now we have what is the first of what is touted as a trilogy about an Australian police detective called Harry Belltree - Crucifixion Creek.
I approached this book with considerable anticipation, the relaxed pleasure that one might feel approaching a good bottle of red wine.
Alas, I was disappointed in the extreme. It's not that it's a bad book, it isn't. But it's a bad Maitland, which is very sad.
The series is set in Sydney (Professor Maitalnd migrated to Australia in 1984 to head the Architectural School at the University of Newcastle). Harry Belltree is part or possibly full Aboriginal, has a wife you is hysterically blind following the car crash in which his parents died.
His morals are, shall we say, flexible, committing burglary, assault, even torture and murder in the name of justice.
His wife, despite being blind, is nevertheless a brilliant computer hacker, and he is aided by a feisty red-headed newspaper reporter.
The level of violence is higher than I've read in a Maitland before and the whole novel is just a trifle crass. You could read it, it's not bad, but you'd be very much better off buying a copy of The Marx Sisters and starting from the beginning.