While Wimmera by Mark Brandi is classified as a crime book, it is so much more. Sure, a terrible offence lies at the heart of this tale of growing up in small town Victoria in the 1980s, but it’s also about families, friendship, loyalty and how some secrets are best not kept.
Divided into two parts, the story of best friends, Ben and Fab, who spend their summer doing the things young boys do – playing backyard cricket, yabbying, exploring and musing about their friends, parents and neighbours – is one where you sense innocence is on the brink of not just being lost but utterly destroyed.
Beautifully written and at a languid pace (like the hot days and steamy nights themselves) it is riddled with a tension that seizes the reader and twists your stomach in knots. I cannot describe the way I felt reading this book. I think my jaw began to ache with the sense of looming darkness and dreadful possibility that permeates the edges of the narrative. It is so brilliantly executed.
When the crime is revealed, even though you’ve long guessed it, it’s still shocking. So are the consequences many years later which is what the second half of the book basically deals with – the impact of those seemingly Halcyon days on the adult Ben and Fab who have both gone their separate and very different ways until a secret from their past is unearthed and they’re forced to come together one last time.
I understand why this book won awards and acclaim. It is riveting in a most unusual and clever way. It’s also deeply disturbing and lingers long after the last page.