Alexander Thorpe’s debut novel, Death Leaves The Station introduces a standard Australian farmhouse in Western Australia’s wheatbelt to a world of crime, homophobia and racism.
Set on Halfwell Station, Mullewa, in 1927 Death Leaves The Station is also a coming-of-age novel. Ana, a young woman, starts encountering the world outside the seclusion of the family farm, in the process uncovering secrets that have laid hidden for decades.
A lapsed Catholic friar arrives at the station. A body is found in the desert. Detective Sergeant Arnold Parkes, and Cooper, an Indigenous tracker, are on the case. Before long Ana and the nameless Friar are whisked into the mystery and manhunt.
Having travelled to many of the places mentioned in the book, I had the advantage of really being able to picture the different towns and the scenery in between. But, if you’ve not experienced Outback Western Australia, don’t be discouraged. Thorpe wonderfully captures the tone, colour, feel and look of these towns and places. His descriptions, and the strong sense of place, really help enhance the narrative.
Also impressive was the character development. The prejudices and ideas of the era are on full display, and often serve as a reminder of how little we have changed. I was particularly taken with the character of Arnold Parkes, and his famed moustache. He’s a character totally deserving of his own series, complete with moustache related interludes.
Death Leaves The Station is an excellent read. I found myself racing to the end to discover the solution to the mystery of the missing body, and who the murderer was. I, for one, definitely didn’t predict the resolution. But, you could say it is reminiscent of the era.
Well-researched, with a key eye for humour, Death Leaves The Station is a strong debut, offering a dry critique of our country’s attitudes towards gender, race and class. All whilst serving up a mystery that will appeal to fans of those classic mysteries, your Agatha Christies and the like.