mystery

Living Arts Canberra review of 'Gerard Hardy's Misfortune'

This review of ‘Gerard Hardy’s Misfortune’ was originally published on the Living Arts Canberra website, It is republished here by kind permission of our dear friend, Barbie Robinson.

This review of ‘Gerard Hardy’s Misfortune’ was originally published on the Living Arts Canberra website, It is republished here by kind permission of our dear friend, Barbie Robinson.

THE READING LIST - Dorothy Johnston’s ‘Gerard Hardy’s Misfortune’

Declared interest: Barbie Robinson, who wrote this blog, is the designer for the internals of this book.

The many fans of Dorothy Johnston’s sea-change mysteries will not be disappointed by this third novel. It’s atmospheric, a little bit creepy and strange, but as with its two predecessors,  imbued with a sense of place. In this case, it’s the small seaside town of Queenscliff in Victoria, but it could, I guess, be any small seaside town. They all have their secrets and silences.

There’s an immediate corpse – in line one, in fact - found in the cellar of the Royal Hotel. Chris Blackie, our series hero and town police constable, is uncomfortably without his side-kick, Anthea Merritt as the story starts, but she rapidly returns from leave and this story then becomes very much hers. As in the previous two novels in the series, the cops from the city throw their unpleasant weight around but their lack of local knowledge and complete inability to talk and listen to the people who hold the clues, renders them useless as investigators.

Elements of the supernatural and downright spooky are a dominant feature in this story, but largely red herrings as it turns out, such as the rumoured to be haunted Royal with its history of a suicide, spiritualism, Tarot card reading and communion with the dead. They twist and weave with lies and secrets to throw us off the scent as we pursue the real and present evil in this tale.

There is also an historical connection with Henry Handel Richardson (Ethel Florence), who lived briefly in Queenscliff. Gerard Hardy, our unfortunate corpse, was an academic obsessed with the author and bent on communicating with her ghost.

Like Chris Blackie, we are somewhat overwhelmed by Hardy’s seedy present and the calculated viciousness of some of the other characters of this story. It is Anthea through her ‘homework’ with the Tarot cards who understands what is going on, saves the day and leads us to the truth, all while enduring a personal crisis.

Yes, I am partial, but it’s a great read – relatable, scary, contemporary stuff that you will not want to leave till the end.

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Dorothy Johnston will be in the Hall of Writers at the Terror Australis Festival on Friday 1 November 10am to 4pm, Cygnet Town Hall, with publisher Jen McDonald and fellow For Pity Sake author, Sara Dowse (As the Lonely Fly, 2017).

Gerard Hardy’s Misfortune is scheduled for release on 28 October 2019. Don’t forget to pre-order your copy in our store!