Prime Cut by Alan Carter

21937675Fiction – Kindle edition. Michael O’Mara Books, 2014. Originally published 2011. 348 pgs. Purchased. 

While the rest of the world teeters on the precipice of what will be known as the Great Recession of 2008, the Western Australian town of Hopetoun is alight with quick money from the 50-year mine next door. Home prices have soared as miners from around the world flock to Hopetown in hopes of working in the mine, and the local police sergeant Tess Maguire is dealing with the rise in robberies and drug-related offences that come when the population suddenly spikes.

When a headless torso is spotted floating off the coast of Hopetoun, Maguire is told by her superiors that the case requires someone with more sonority and expertise. She doesn’t expect the senior person dispatched to assist her to be Detective Senior Sergeant Cato Kwong, a man banished to the “Stock Squad” for his role in a police frame-up and a man who ended their past romance without a word.

Kwong views this possible homicide as his ticket to a more prestigious position on the force, away from his crotchety partner and a lifetime of treating cattle, sheep, and roadkill as victims. He becomes singularly focused on proving the death was a homicide carried out by the local mine operator, making the interjection of yet another copper investigating a cold case from the 1973 seem particularly suspect.

That case involved the gruesome murder of a young boy and his pregnant mother by means of electrocution and bludgeoning. Its unsolved status as haunted English police detective Stuart Miller since he was dispatched to the crime scene, and he was further aggrieved to learn another crime was committed outside Adelaide with the same modus operandi. Now, 35 years later, Miller is following up on a possible sighting of the suspect, Davey Arthurs, near Hopetoun.

As you can see, there are multiple crimes – another occurs during the course of Kwong’s investigation – and several central characters to follow in this novel, and Carter often jumps from one character to the next without clear demarcation in the narrative. (The chapters follow a chorological order rather than focusing on the point of view of a particular character.)

The Kindle edition used the same spacing between character shifts as it did between normal paragraphs breaks, adding to the confusion. I often had to flip back a page or two in order to make sure the point of view had shifted and who it had shifted to, particularly after a busy schedule forced me to put the book down for a day or two.

That said, the writing itself is quite compelling with the suspense steadily building throughout the story. I felt completely enveloped by the setting thanks to Carter’s descriptive writing, and I liked the dynamics between the characters, although I was disappointed with how the romance between Kwong and Maquire was left in limbo.

There’s quite a bit of Aussie vernacular in the book, and the built-in dictionary on Kindle wasn’t helpful in deciphering the meaning of these words. When I was home, I found this siteto be helpful, but largely had to rely on context clues while traveling on the road with my Kindle in airplane mode. I think I spent more time contemplating the meaning of individual words than I did considering whodunit.

This is my fifteenth book for #20BooksofSummer. When I made my list for the challenge, I didn’t anticipate how much traveling I’d be doing between June and September and didn’t include a single title off my Kindle, which is my go-to while traveling. Thankfully, Cathy is flexible with her “rules” for this challenge, allowing participants to swap in other books and count them towards their challenge total. I purchased the Kindle version of ‘Prime Cut’ in June 2014 after reading a review by Kim of Reading Matters.

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