Maitland has taken a break from his popular Brock and Kolla series with the release of BRIGHT AIR. It opens with Josh, having recently returned to Sydney after working in London, still mourning the death of his girlfriend Luce, they had both been members of the University climbing club. Luce had fallen to her death off the rugged coast of Lord Howe Island, her body never found, other members of the climbing team on the same trip had said she was climbing on her own and had simply disappeared. Josh is not only mourning her loss, but feeling profoundly guilty because of what happened between the two of them, and how he wasn't there when she died.
When Anna, one of the remaining team members, contacts him he discovers two other members of the climbing team - two of the three that had been climbing with Luce when she disappeared - are now also dead after falling from a cliff-face in New Zealand. One of them has told Anna something very startling as he died. Josh and Anna find themselves going back to the Coroner's Report into the death of Luce and following in her tracks to Lord Howe Island.
BRIGHT AIR has an interesting plot that slowly builds up an intricate picture of this little group of people. Whilst the 2 dead men are slightly more shadowy, Josh, Anna and Damien - the remaining characters still alive are revealed as real people as the plot continues. Although a lot of the revelations are described from Josh's own perspective, the guilt driving him to understand what really happened to Luce also loosens the string on the experiences of his own life.
But what was really fascinating was the resolution - which is impossible to discuss without giving away the plot totally, but it's an unusual denouement with some obscure aspects that are handled with exactly the aplomb that you would expect from an author of this calibre. BRIGHT AIR is slightly different in style and feel from the Brock and Kolla series, despite it having another male and female central partnership. These two - Josh and Anna are more on a level partnership, and there's obviously something that could build between them. The book takes place in Sydney and on Lord Howe Island, and that setting provides a different sort of atmosphere and experience, although there is definitely something dark and foreboding about the cliffs of Lord Howe Island.
Fans of Barry Maitland's writing will not be disappointed by this standalone novel, and if you've never tried Maitland's books then BRIGHT AIR will definitely give you an introduction to a master crime writer.