Review: PROMISE, Tony Cavanaugh

  • Published by Hachette Australia 2012
  • ISBN 978-0-7336-2847-4
  • 327 pages
  • debut title

Synopsis (Publisher)

Top Homicide cop Darian Richards has been
seeking out monsters for too long. He has promised one too many victim’s families he will find the answers they need and it’s taken its toll.
Now retired, a series of disappearances see him return to the gun. On his terms. But he knows, every promise has a price to pay.If you love Harry Bosch and Dave Robicheaux you’ll love Darian Richards.

Top Homicide cop Darian Richards has been seeking out monsters for too long. He has promised one too many victim’s families he will find the answers they need and it’s taken its toll. After surviving a gunshot wound to the head he calls it quits and retires to the Sunshine Coast in an attempt to leave the demons behind. But he should have realised,
there are demons everywhere and no place is safe. A serial killer is prowling the Sunshine Coast area and Darian tries to ignore the fact his experience could make a difference hunting him down.

All he wants is to sit at the end of his jetty on the Noosa River and ignore the fact that girls from the area have vanished over the past fourteen months. All blonde and pretty. Youngest: 13. Oldest: 16. He knows they are all dead but the cops were saying ‘missing’ or ‘vanished . That’s what you have to say if you don t have a body.

Jenny Brown was the first. She vanished sometime after 4 in the afternoon, Saturday 15 October the previous year. Except for her parents and her friends and everybody who knew her, it was thought she was just a runaway. Especially by the cops who allowed a good two or three minutes before arriving at that conclusion. By the time they’d reached
the gate to the front yard of her house, before they’d even walked across the road and climbed into their cruiser, they would’ve forgotten Jenny Brown even existed.

But then others disappeared and they couldn’t call them all runaways.
Darian can’t sit idly by and he decides he is going to find the killer and deal with him … his way.

My Take

At thirty years old Darian Richards became Officer in Charge of Victoria Police’s Homicide Squad, having earned the reputation of Australia’s top homicide investigator. But failure doesn’t sit well with him and sixteen years later, when he fails to find a serial killer taking girls riding trains, he resigns and heads north to Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.

It seems there are serial killers everywhere, many murders going undetected. A year after Darian has fled from the south, a serial killer taking young girls in Queensland strikes on the Sunshine Coast. Darian Richards can’t stand by and do nothing. He becomes a free lance investigator.

He draws into his net Marie, the wife of a local friend. She is a constable in the Queensland Police and through her he learns what the police know. They form a maverick team, together with Isosceles, an international investigator who provides online services.

By this time we have also learnt that if the courts don’t convict and dispense justice then Darian will dispense his own. Over the years he has done this several times, removing perps who have beaten the courts. Darian Richards is a dangerous man, and a rather unlikeable character. You find yourself asking how different he is to the people he pursues.

What didn’t work all that well for me in this novel were chapters written from the point of view of the killer whose public count is eight abductions. The author tries to get into his sick mind and the result is horrifying, making for a very noir novel.

My rating: 4.3

Tony Cavanaugh has already published a second novel featuring Darian Richards, DEAD GIRL SING.

Other reviews to check

About the author

Tony Cavanaugh is an Australian writer and producer of film and television, writing numerous dramas since the 1980s. He has over thirty years experience in the industry, in all fields, from the genesis of an idea to production. He has lectured at several prestigious universities and institutions including RMIT, Melbourne University, and the Australian Writer s Guild, and has been a regular guest on radio commenting on the film and television industry. Tony was also invited to judge the Logie Awards, Australian Film Institute Awards, and the International Emmy Awards, held in New York.

Review: DEAD GIRL SING by Tony Cavanaugh

DeadGirlSingDEAD GIRL SING is the second instalment of Tony Cavanaugh’s Queensland based series starring ex-cop-turned-vigilante Darian Richards. He is once again dragged reluctantly from his self-imposed retirement; this time because a young woman whose life he saved in the last book rings him out of the blue and says something along the lines of “only you can help..there are so many bodies” and then promptly vanishes into thin air. Darian contacts local a policewoman he knows in Noosa and asks her to follow it up, which she does by asking a Gold Coast based colleague to check out the location Darian has given. When this policeman also disappears Darian decides he must get more actively involved, whereupon he discovers the bodies of two dead girls in a shallow pool of water in the Gold Coast hinterland, bests the local plods with his super-human intelligence and starts his hunt for the missing girl.

I felt this novel wasn’t so much asking me to suspend my disbelief as demanding I buy it a one-way ticket to Bhutan. There just didn’t seem to be a single realistic element to the novel and that’s a hard sell, especially when a book takes itself as seriously as this one appears to. Darian Richards pontificates lengthily about his superior intellect, detecting skills and ability to apply justice which is topped off with a whole load of self-aggrandizing claptrap from the killer’s point of view and there’s no hint of the tongue in cheek humour I need to make the ‘impossibly brilliant hero’ trope even vaguely interesting to me.

It’s not spoiling anything to reveal that the plot of this novel revolves around human trafficking. Cavanaugh’s ‘take’ on the subject is to make the villain a woman which could have been an interesting twist but the character is completely over the top and I did not find her voice very credible. Eventually we learn the reasons behind Starlight’s behaviour but I didn’t really buy into all that either; it felt more like an awful series of violent vignettes strung together for shock value than an actual person’s story.

I think DEAD GIRL SING belongs more in the old-fashioned Western category – a good (if not always legally sound) guy doing battle with a bad guy (or girl) – than it does in crime fiction. There’s precious little mystery to be had as we learn who the killer is and why the crimes are being committed long before the end and the book focuses instead on the interplay between anti hero and villain. Any vestiges of suspense that might have remained are wiped away by the presence of Isosceles. He’s the mega genius geek that Darian has on permanent speed dial who can hack into anything he pleases at the touch of a button. There really is no tension to be had when the protagonist of a crime story can get out of any jam or find out whatever he needs to know so effortlessly.

Ultimately I suppose this is just not my kind of thing. I found Darian and Starlight to have equally inflated egos and neither they nor their battle of wits engaged me at all. The book doesn’t spend any serious time letting us get to know the victims – apart from via the gruesome violence they suffer – which further disconnected me from goings on. My overriding response to it was boredom.

As always, other opinions are available and here are a couple you might like to check out for balance Bite the Book and Aust Crime Fiction


Publisher: Hachette Australia [2013]
ISBN/ASIN: 9780733627880
Length: 325 pages
Format: paperback
Creative Commons Licence
This work by http://fairdinkumcrime.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Review: PROMISE by Tony Cavanaugh

promiseDarian Richards was once in charge of Victoria’s Homicide Squad. But after promising a mother her kidnapped daughter would return home only to have that prove untrue he resigns. Throws his gun in the sea and moves to Queensland. A year later someone starts killing young girls in the place Darian now calls home. After half a dozen have been taken, tortured and killed Darian decides he’s going to find said killer and stop him.

This is not my kind of crime fiction. It’s a very popular form of the genre. Indeed it’s what I think a lot of people think all crime fiction to be, but it’s not my personal cup of tea. That doesn’t make it bad or mean you shouldn’t read it (unless we happen to share a particular set of dislikes).

The first thing that makes this not my kind of crime fiction is that I found its protagonist an arrogant, insufferable bore. He’s a genius, the smartest male cop to have ever lived (in Dairan’s world all other male cops are dumb) (though all female cops are smart so he gets a point for not mixing misogyny in with his silly generalisations). He is the one who understands victims. He is so committed to them that never took a day off when he worked Homicide. He knows how to deal out justice better than any pesky old justice system. He is, naturally, a martial arts expert. His ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound is implied.

I know these kinds of super-hero characters  (he reminded me of Jack Reacher) are supposed to be a bit of fun but I find them boring. And in some ways not unrealistic enough. I know people who think they’re gods and everyone around them is a loser and I think they’re boring too.

Next up is the subject matter. I have had enough of serial killer novels, especially ones jammed full of the notion there is such a killer lurking in every neighbourhood. As if the relative few that really have existed are not frightening enough. Throw in chapters depicting endless and gruesome sadism and violence from the killer’s point of view, make the killer someone who also thinks he’s a genius then pit the two egos against each other and you’ve just about marked off the entire checklist of things I don’t like in my crime fiction.

That said the book is well-written and, unlike so many books published these days, not at all bloated. Cavanaugh can capture a scene’s essence with just a few words. Like when Darian lies to a group of victims’ family members and realises “They believed me – except for Juanita whose stare told me she knew bullshit a year away…” I love that line. In fact when it focuses on something other than the duelling egos of the killer and his hunter, the novel can be insightful.

It also has a really solid sense of place. There’s an unsettlingly credible picture of the Sunshine Coast as a serial killer’s wet dream (surely no parent who reads this will ever let their teenager daughter go to schoolies) (or…you know…out the front door) and more broadly the setting is Australian to its core, though it might not bring in the tourists. There’s even some dry humour and some potentially interesting minor characters.

I was looking for the kind of escapism offered by PROMISE on a particularly lazy summer day but I still wanted to be engaged by some aspect of the book. If not the story then the characters. Darian bloody Richards and his over-inflated ego matching wits with a barking mad serial killer didn’t do it for me but I’m fairly sure I’ll be in the minority of readers who react this way. PROMISE has the feel of a Lee Child or early James Patterson book and I know those are hugely popular. Most readers will undoubtedly not see Darian as a giant, boring ego and most readers probably haven’t read enough crime fiction to be well and truly fed up with seeing the world from the point of view of a madman. To all of you: enjoy.


As always other opinions are available and here are just two that differ fairly significantly from mine at Aust Crime Fiction and Bite the Book


Publisher: Hachette Australia [2011]
ISBN: 9780733628474
Length: 327 pages
Format: Paperback
Creative Commons Licence
This work by http://fairdinkumcrime.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The Precipice and The Promise

Today was another one of those days that required an application of retail therapy and so to the local bookstore I strolled. I feel slightly less guilty for buying books I didn’t quite need because both of them are Australian. I’m not wasting money I’m helping the economy.

Virginia Duigan’s THE PRECIPICE was released last year but I didn’t hear a peep about it until I perused this year’s longlist for the Miles Franklin Award. It sounds like it might be more of a literary suspense novel than pure crime fiction but we’re nothing if not flexible here at Fair Dinkum Crime. The publisher’s blurb says

Thea Farmer, a reclusive and difficult retired school principal, lives in isolation with her dog in the Blue Mountains. Her distinguished career ended under a cloud over a decade earlier, following a scandal involving a much younger male teacher. After losing her savings in the financial crash, she is forced to sell the dream house she had built for her old age and live on in her dilapidated cottage opposite. Initially resentful and hostile towards Frank and Ellice, the young couple who buy the new house, Thea develops a flirtatious friendship with Frank, and then a grudging affinity with his twelve-year-old niece, Kim, who lives with them. Although she has never much liked children, Thea discovers a gradual and wholly unexpected bond with the half-Vietnamese Kim, a solitary, bookish child from a troubled background. Her growing sympathy with Kim propels Thea into a psychological minefield. Finding Frank’s behaviour increasingly irresponsible, she becomes convinced that all is not well in the house. Unsettling suspicions, which may or may not be irrational, begin to dominate her life, and build towards a catastrophic climax.

I like the sound of the curmudgeonly character and I lived for a time in the Blue Mountains so I’m keen to read this one.

To achieve gender bias (and because it seems rude to leave a store with just one book) I also picked up a copy of Tony Cavanagh’s THE PROMISE released earlier this month. If the publisher is to be believed it will suit fans of Harry Bosch and Dave Robicheaux. They’re big shoes to fill but I’m happy to give the début a try. Its blurb says

Top Homicide cop Darian Richards has been seeking out monsters for too long. He has promised one too many victim’s families he will find the answers they need and it’s taken its toll. After surviving a gunshot wound to the head he calls it quits and retires to the Sunshine Coast in an attempt to leave the demons behind. But he should have realised, there are demons everywhere and no place is safe. A serial killer is prowling the Sunshine Coast area and Darian tries to ignore the fact his experience could make a difference hunting him down.

All he wants is to sit at the end of his jetty on the Noosa River and ignore the fact that girls from the area have vanished over the past fourteen months. All blonde and pretty. Youngest: 13. Oldest: 16. He knows they are all dead but the cops were saying ‘missing’ or ‘vanished . That s what you have to say if you don t have a body.

Jenny Brown was the first. She vanished sometime after 4 in the afternoon, Saturday 15 October the previous year. Except for her parents and her friends and everybody who knew her, it was thought she was just a runaway. Especially by the cops who allowed a good two or three minutes before arriving at that conclusion. By the time they d reached the gate to the front yard of her house, before they d even walked across the road and climbed into their cruiser, they would ve forgotten Jenny Brown even existed.

But then others disappeared and they couldn’t call them all runaways. Darian can t sit idly by and he decides he is going to find the killer and deal with him … his way.