Australian doctor Tom Hackett arrived in New Orleans as a Paediatric Surgery Fellow full of joy at his perfect life. Three months later he is back in New South Wales, wifeless. Tom’s wife Olivia has been murdered in New Orleans, and Tom has returned home to learn to live without her. Tom is living in Sydney but commuting to Sanctuary, a small town on the South Coast where he has a clinic in the local hospital.
The first sign that Tom’s past is following him comes when a dozen black roses are left on his Sydney doorstep. “Hell has found you”, says the note nestled among the roses. In Sanctuary that morning a husband finds his wife dead on the kitchen floor, battered to death with a frying pan. Senior Sergeant Jack Maguire, a homicide detective demoted to Sanctuary because he has followed his instincts once too often, feels that there is something odd about this murder, although he can’t put his finger on it. Tom Hackett, on the other hand, knows that there is something strange, when he reads the local newspaper report about the murder, and realises that not only has he met the murdered woman, but her murder bears considerable similarity to his wife Olivia’s.
THE PERFECT SUSPECT is author Vincent Varjavandi’s first novel. It reads a bit like a first novel, too – complex and tangled plot, some unlikely scenarios, and a relatively “all’s well that ends well” ending. But for all that it is not bad; the tension builds well, and the mystery element is well teased out, and I think Vincent has potential.
The relationship between Jack Maguire and his assistant, newly promoted Detective Constable William Tucker, is interestingly described and could provide the basis for future books. The novel is very firmly set in Australia by the author’s inclusion of Australian colloquialisms in dialogue, and in his references to New South Wales place names and events. That said, I don’t think it will reduce its appeal to non-Australian readers.
Vincent Varjavandi is a Sydney-based paediatric surgeon. He uses his medical knowledge sparingly in the novel but it does emerge on occasion in the description of murder scenes and in autopsy reports. Without doubt Tom Hackett is Varjavandi’s mouthpiece and his alter ego. Tom feels strongly about child abuse, paedophilia, and child pornography.
My rating: 3.8
October 2006 Review First published on Murder and Mayhem