Jonathan Ryan, renowned opera singer, is a man who has it all - fame, fortune, movie star good looks and recently voted one of the sexiest men alive. Ryan is invited to perform at a benefit concert in Trinity, a country town in NSW, where he is brutally murdered at an impromptu rehearsal. Smashed over the head with a crystal vase full of his favourite yellow roses.
His widow, Julia, devastated by his death and not trusting the police, engages the services of ex-cop turned PI, Louise Keller, to find out about her husband’s past and who had a reason to kill him.
It's always interesting to see what might get a writer's thinking process started, and from the MM Rochford's bio it seems it's a love of reading crime and thrillers, and opera. Knowing that, the victim in this debut novel makes sense. It's also good to see an author having a go at a PI in Australia, with ex-cop Louise Keller called into this case by the victim's widow.
There were some nice details built into the story - yellow roses, a local boy made good come back to town, and a long list of possible suspects, albeit with a touch of the closed room about the small town setting. Keller is a good central detective, questioning, doubtful, competent and somewhat accidental without being overtly irritating. The victim was perhaps a little stereotypical and whilst the central plot fell into place reasonably well there are some by-roads and wanderings along the way that were predictable, and overly wordy. There's also a couple of problems that are all too common with debut books. That feeling of the kitchen sink, along with all its contents, being deployed, minutely described to the point where some readers might feel that they couldn't be trusted with the hints. Plus a tendency to over-formalise dialogue so that it's not realistic or convincing.
Hopefully in follow up books that slightly overwritten feeling can be eliminated and the dialogue pared back which will greatly improve the pace and the overall feeling of reality of the story. Keller, on the other hand, is a protagonist that shows promise. Particularly as we need more good Australian PI stories.