Book Title: THE SIMPLE DEATH
Author: Michael Duffy
Publisher: Allen & Unwin
A man falls off a ferry and dies and an elderly lady dies after a long painful illness - could the two deaths be linked? Are they mercy killings or is Detective Nicholas Troy on the trail of a serial killer? A smart, sophisticated, hugely entertaining mystery, with a plot ripped straight out of tomorrow's headlines.
It's odd the things that come to mind when you're reading a book. THE SIMPLE DEATH had me very worried for central character Nicholas Troy's female colleagues. Given that he seems to spend a lot of his time jumping into bed with other women as soon as something goes wrong with his own life (not just including his wife's Post Natal Depression / leaving him etc from the first book), that I'm really worried what's going to happen if he ever gets knocked back on a promotion.
It's a pity that the personal behaviour of Nicholas follows a rather predictable, well worn track now, because the rest of the story in this book was really well done and extremely sensitively handled. Not an easy task given that there are some tricky subjects tackled. Euthanasia and sexual abuse by members of the Catholic clergy are carefully built into the inexplicable death of a hospital executive who jumped (or was pushed) off a Sydney ferry.
Told in distinct threads which eventually weave their way together, THE SIMPLE DEATH follows the investigation of that high achiever who disappeared off the side of a Manly Ferry. Whilst Detective Nicholas Troy is looking into that case, he's also concerned about the fate of the man who took him in after his parents died. Father Luke Corelli has always been a mentor and solid figure in Troy's life and the accusation that he had abused a young boy years before has thrown Troy. The fact that Luke is also dying of cancer, and refuses to deny the charge confuses and distresses Troy. Troy is also still coping with his wife leaving him and taking their young son to Brisbane. Meanwhile successful education department bureaucrat Leila Scott is coping with her own form of cancer suffering - her mother is dying slowly and painfully from bone cancer, and she has asked Leila for help to die. When Troy comes across members of the group that Leila goes to for help, he starts to think there's something more sinister going on.
Obviously there's a few themes in this book that have the potential to worry some readers. Both of these - the abuse and the euthanasia themes - seemed to this reader to be particularly well handled. There's nothing either judgemental or particularly sympathetic or dismissive about either of the subjects, rather it's looked at from a couple of very personal perspectives, whilst also exploring the reality of the consequences of choices. These aspects of the book were particularly well handled, as was the way that all of the threads eventually weave together to a neat solution. The interesting thing about the trajectory of this series is that it seems to be repositioning slightly. If pressed, despite the police procedural elements in the first book - THE TOWER - I would persist in calling it more of a thriller. This book - THE SIMPLE DEATH - still has quite a few thriller type characteristics, but it's definitely moving more towards a Police Procedural style, and it's doing it quite well. Really, if it would be possible to drop the persistent predictable sexual misdemeanour's of Nicholas Troy and keep developing the plot and procedural elements, these books could be the start of a very very good series.