Title: Death Leaves the Station
Author: Alexander Thorpe
Genre: Crime & Mystery
Publisher: Fremantle Press
Published: October 2020
Are you a fan of Agatha Christie? Are you longing to read a mystery set in Australia? Are you looking for a mystery which doesn’t drag out for so long that by the time you reach the end you can’t remember the start? Well, Alexander Thorpe’s debut novel, Death Leaves the Station, is the book for you! It is set in the blistering summer of 1927 in Western Australia, it has historical content, it has an intriguing—and at times feuding—ensemble of characters, it has you guessing until the end, and it has the perfect mix of familiar and peculiar elements while being under 200 pages long!
The setting of rural Western Australia (hometown represented!) piqued my interest, but I was immediately hooked by the mystery. The novel opens to the large estate (Halfwell Station)—out of place by its Lancashire design—in rural Western Australia with a nameless friar asking the station mistress for food. The mystery storyline of a body discovered in the desert by the adopted daughter of the station owners, Ana, was quickly introduced. I thought that the body disappearing when Ana tries to show the friar what she discovered was definitely unexpected…and very ominous. Instead of waiting for the action to unfold Thorpe jumps right into the mystery plotline—which I loved! I adore snuggling under my doona with a mystery book, so I appreciated diving right into the mystery instead of reading a slow leadup.
The novel was fast paced. Hints dropped continuously along the way—to my obliviousness. While the mystery of who is the dead man?, where did the body vanish to?, and who is the murderer? kept the plot rolling, it was the characters that I found to be equally, if not more, intriguing. I have to confess that I have a soft spot for Detective Parkes. I mean, who wouldn’t chuckle at the first line which introduces him: “Detective Sergeant Arnold Parkes hated his moustache”. The continuous jabs at poor Detective Parkes’ moustache continue throughout. While Ana—as the only witness to the disappearing corpse—and the nameless friar serve as the main characters, attention is dispersed to the secondary characters and helps to build the world around them. This attention to detail is also due to the beautiful prose Thorpe uses to describe the landscape. Perhaps it is my own adoration for Western Australia, but all Western Australian writers (Thorpe included) capture the raw beauty of the land perfectly.
Thorpe’s debut novel is a fantastic mix of historical fiction, mystery, and crime. As the cold winds of winter start to sweep down on us, grab yourself a copy of Death Leaves the Station and warm yourself in the sizzling heat of 1927 Western Australia.