One foggy morning on the banks of the Murray River, a body is found in a burnt-out area of grassland. The heavily tattooed victim, who has suffered two bullet wounds to the head, is identified as Freddie Jones, a bikie from Moama.
Detective Sergeant Zoe Mayer is on the case, alongside her trusty service dog, Harry. Although Zoe is determined to track down the murderer, she finds herself stonewalled at every turn—by Freddie’s family, his associates and even the local police. But then a second body is discovered, and soon all bets are off…
Simon Rowell’s latest gripping rural mystery Wild Card is centred around a double homicide, gang warfare and small-town corruption.
Wild Card is a continuation for detective Zoe Mayer and her service dog Harry, who were both introduced in Simon’s previous novel Long Game. No need to be worried if you haven’t read Long Game. Like many other crime writers, you don’t need to read the predecessor to follow the mystery. I hadn’t read Long Game prior to starting Wild Card and it didn’t impede my reading experience at all. The mystery is standalone.
“She and Charlie watched the screen fill with a close-up of Amber’s face, before it panned slowly to the side. A short distance away, behind the girls, they could see a man, about thirty, staring. He appeared to be ducking behind a large shrub. After thirty seconds, the vision shook as Amber and Justine started to scream.”
This particular genre – rural noir or rural crime – is quite saturated in Australia at the moment, but Simon maintains the reader’s interest and presents a compelling set of characters and suspects.
Wild Card will satisfy seasoned crime and thriller readers, following the standard police procedural narrative and keeping readers guessing until the final chapter. What is initially a one-off murder soon leads to a second body, and so the pacing and tension maintains a high level throughout the entire story.
“Harry was entranced but suddenly turned towards the door before leaping off the bed. Then she heard it. Sirens, one after another, becoming louder. Zoe stood up and pulled on a jacket. She grabbed her equipment belt, fastened it around herself, checking her gun was in place, and opened the door.”
Wild Card consists of many notable secondary characters to keep the story interesting – in particular, Zoe’s colleague and partner Charlie, who holds a significant presence in the story.
The novel is anchored by a strong setting – the Echuca/Moama on the Murray River. It’s a small town filled with suspicious characters and long-held secrets. Largely dialogue-driven with a tight plot, Simon has done well to capture the isolated town and a sense of foreboding. The conclusion, in particular, will satisfy readers.
“It was almost dawn when the Forensics team finished their work, with the aid of portable halogen lights that turned the darkness into daylight. They showed Zoe the rake marks that had smoothed the ground around the hole. Her heart had sunk. She knew a killer so organised wouldn’t leave them too many clues.”
Recommended for crime, thriller and mystery readers. Readership skews 20+
Thank you to the publishing company for mailing me a review copy in exchange for an honest review.