THE short opening prologue of Alan Carter’s Marlborough Man sent shivers down my spine as a young boy is lured into a car of a smoothly urbane paedophile.
Not expecting to be picked up, the boy is surprised when the man says “hop in”.
“I’m meant to get the bus. Stranger danger,” he says.
“But I’m not a stranger, surely?” replies the man.
The little boy climbs in, setting the scene for a roller coaster ride of false leads and red herrings, as sergeant Nick Chester hunts for a multiple murderer, dubbed the Pied Piper by the press.
Getting into the mind of a sexual predator was testing, Carter says.
“You feel creepy and feel the need to shower after that, but it’s a big part of being a crime writer.”
Carter lives six months of the year at his South Fremantle home, swimming at South Beach and enjoying a Freo lifestyle.
The other six he spends in the wild and beautiful Marlborough region of New Zealand’s south island, where the novel is set.
He moved to NZ to write the fourth in his Cato Kwong novels, but the remote, and rugged landscape took him down a different path: “Ten kilometres up a dead end valley in remote New Zealand,” he explains to the Herald.
“Chainsaws from loggers and gunshots from the pig hunters.
“There’s a yin and yang about it.
“And the Marlborough Man emerged.”
Sgt Chester is a regular cop in small town Havelock, handing out tickets to weekend warriors and generally keeping his head down because he’s in hiding after an undercover job goes wrong in the UK.
Tensions are built on multiple levels with a crime boss seeking vengeance, environmental destruction of forests by a developer, small town prejudices and a trail of dead bodies as Chester tracks down the Pied Piper.
Carter draws the reader to his characters, flaws and all, and I found myself uncharacteristically slowing down towards the end of the book fearing the worse for the innocent victims I’d come to like.
Marlborough Man is a great holiday read, and the descriptions of the NZ landscape would have had me buying a ticket, but I was already there and enjoying a great holiday read, in-between checking out the breathtaking scenery. Cato Kwong fans needn’t fear, that fourth book is on its way.
by JENNY D’ANGER