Friday 31 July 2020

An Isolated Incident

I've been meaning to read An Isolated Incident for at least three years. I saw Emily Maguire speak at Newcastle Writers Festival back in 2017. Remember when Writers Festivals were a thing? It makes me all nostalgic. I had a copy somewhere I bought back in 2017, but fear it has disappeared somewhere. Recently I found the audiobook on my  BorrowBox. A few days ago, I started listening, and then, four days later I was done. 

An Isolated Incident kicks off grabbing our attention from the very start. A young policeman is knocking on a door to tell a woman that the body of her sister has been found. 

It was the new cop who came to the door, the young fella who'd only been on the job a couple of months. I thought that was a bit rough, sending a boy like him to do a job like that. Later I found out that he was sent because he'd gone to pieces at the scene. That's what we all call it now: the scene. 
Chris is a local barmaid, working at one of the four pubs in Strathdee, a small town in South West New South Wales. She is perhaps a bit rough around the edges, but she loved her younger sister very much. They had a difficult mother, and a difficult childhood for various reasons, and they've been very close as adults. Bella's murder hits Chris and the small town hard. Much of the book is told in first person narration by Chris.

The other narrative voice is May, a journalist who has come to town to cover "the story". To me An Isolated Incident was then somehow like a female version of Chris Hammer's Scrublands- which was also an audiobook for me, and another NWF connection! (see my review) Female author, female journalist. Female victim. An Isolated Incident is of course the earlier of the two books, but a similar story with a damaged journalist coming to a small town. Of course this perspective from the outside fills out the story a lot, and gives a broader perspective on the town and it's inhabitants. The articles that May writes for her online newspaper are included too. 

I always enjoy a multiple point of view but the dual narrative was sometimes confusing, as changes in narrator are unannounced on the audiobook, which is an ongoing audio problem. Just a short pause between sections is all we ask. Too much? Seems to be. The print book has obvious spaces, give us pauses on the audio. 

An Isolated Incident asks us not to see Bella's murder as an Isolated Incident, but to see how it sits within the history and context of violence against women. 

This had nothing to do with what happened to Bella and what happened to Bella had nothing to do with Tegan Miller and none of it had to do with the rich Sydney housewife left out to rot in the street which had nothing to do with the Nigerian girls stolen as sex slaves or the Indian woman eviscerated on a bus or the man grabbing women off the streets in Brunswick. 
It also explores family, female friendship, marriage, infinidelity, our culture of alcohol. It is sexy and provocative in a way that is rather unusual for a murder mystery. 

I've been listening to quite a bit of crime fiction over the past year since I listened to Scrublands really. I'm just about  half way through Nicci French's Frieda Klein series, and loving it. 

The narration by Katherine Littrell (what a surname!) is masterful. She is astonishing actually. She is a trained actor- which really shines through, and does work in multiple accents  and dialects- Australian, New Zealand, American and British! Wow. Sadly most of the titles she narrates are not my cup of tea, but I'll be searching out more of her work. 

An Isolated Incident was Shortlisted for the 2017 Stella Prize


Parisbreakfasts said...

I love audio seems to be the only way I 'read' anything these busy days...I miss sitting down with a good book like the old days.
Finding good narrators is key of course. Thanks for the rec of Katherine Littrell. Fun blog.
Cheers Carolg

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