Book Review: DIAMOND DOVE - Adrian Hyland

Title: Diamond Dove
Author: Adrian Hyland
Publisher: Text Publishing
Released: August, 2006

Emily Tempest has returned to the Northern Territory to visit the aboriginal community, Moonlight Downs, in which she grew up. Emily left in her teens; her father sent her to live with an aunt in order to keep her out of trouble and get a decent education. At 26 years of age, Emily is back. She's not sure why. Perhaps to visit her father or maybe it's a need to find out where she belongs in the world Right now she feels she has a foot in both the white and aboriginal worlds and doesn't quite fit into either.

One of the first people she encounters on her return is Lincoln Flinders, one of the community leaders and father of Emily's closest childhood friend, Hazel. Within hours, Lincoln is found brutally murdered and first appearances would indicate that it has been a ritual tribal murder. The obvious suspect is Blakie, an eccentric who lives on the fringes of the community and appears to be their self-appointed spiritual enforcer. However there's something about the death that doesn't sit right with Emily. The ritual aspects of the murder might have been done to cover the real cause. Blakie may be cunning but he isn't that well organised. Finding the police indifferent to her feelings about the murder, Emily embarks on her own investigation which take her on a journey on which she discovers who she really is and uncovers the identity of the killer along the way.

The author, Adrian Hyland, spent many years living and working with indigenous people in the Northern Territory; DIAMOND DOVE is a story told with a great deal of affection for the people. Their spiritual connection to the land and its native animals is particularly well described. He makes no attempt to gloss over the dysfunctional aspects of life in the remoter areas of the Northern Territory, both European and Aboriginal.Emily regards her community with a mixture of deep love and exasperation at the destructiveness of some of the behaviour she witnesses.

There are other issues raised in the book. The inevitable clash of cultures and lack of understanding that results. Conflicting interests of farming, mining and aboriginal land claims, the politicization of these interests and the odd mix of people who seem to be attracted to such remote areas. The real achievement that Hyland has managed to pull off is the fact that he vividly portrays all these aspects of life in the outback without making any judgements and without trying to push the reader down the path towards a particular opinion. He leaves that entirely up to the individual.

Hyland has also injected a wonderful dry humour into the book. Expressions such as "dry as emus knees", "he belonged to the von Ribbentrop school of negotiation" and "been taking deportment lessons from a Rottweiler" are genuinely funny. The author also has a gift for description; " Gladys herself was a battleship on stilts. She wasn't much older than me, but she'd exploded in every direction. She was immensely tall, immensely fat, wearing a green dress and a coiffure that looked like it had been fashioned with a splitting axe."

Like the precious stone, DIAMOND DOVE is a rich gem of a book and one not to be missed.

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