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Blackwattle Creek by Geoffrey McGeachin

Blackwattle Creek

by Geoffrey McGeachin

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An enjoyable story set in the fifties....the good old days.... No mobile phones, no computers and so on. A good murder mystery, set in Melbourne, so I could relate to much of the book. Probably four stars because I could remember.........and perhaps wished I couldn't. ( )
  DCarlin | Jan 22, 2016 |
The second instalment in the Charlie Berlin series. It's 1957, 10 years on from the events of The Diggers Rest Hotel, he is married to Rebecca and they have 2 children, but life is a struggle. But then the leg of the dead husband of an acquaintance goes missing from his coffin and Charlie has a mystery on his hands. As he investigates, things start to get nasty. Perhaps Charlie has got involved in something he cannot begin to understand and he will be lucky to come out alive as the bodies start to pile up.
The characters and places are richly imagined: crooked cops, shady characters from dark places, and a warm loving family. This is not your typical crime story, with lots of intrigue and secrets. It is well crafted and hard to put down. ( )
  Bruce_McNair | Mar 10, 2015 |
I picked this book to read for no other reason than it was an Australian book by an Australian author and I like reading Australian books by Australian authors. So I had no idea what to expect, which I like, and I was pleasantly surprised.

This book is set in 1957 Melbourne and is about Charlie Berlin, a Detective in the police who is asked a favour that ultimately leads him into government secrets that can never be revealed. The imagery created of suburban life in a post war world is enjoyable to read.

I really like this book. ( )
  Balthazar-Lawson | Mar 29, 2013 |
This is #2 in McGeachin's Charlie Berlin series and every bit as good as the first. It is set in 1957, 10 years after THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL; Charlie Berlin appears to be well established in the Victoria Police and working as a plain clothes detective out of Russell St. in Melbourne. The Olympics have been successfully held in Melbourne in 1956 and Australia is still reeling from the after effects, including having to accommodate Hungarian political refugees. The Australian government has agreed to allow British atomic scientists to carry out tests Maralinga near Woomera and the first were held just before the Olympics.

Charlie and his wife have a small family and now live in the Melbourne suburbs. At the beginning of the novel Charlie has been ordered to take some leave accrued during the Olympics. At the very beginning of his leave he gets sidetracked by a lying undertaker.

What I like about these novels is their feeling of historical authenticity and setting. I was a child in the 1950s and so many of the time markers McGeachin uses rang true for me: small things like Charlie polishing his children's shoes; the way the back yard is set up with the chook run and the vegetable plot; and the way his son Peter is storing up crackers for Bonfire Night under his bed. I think McGeachin is clever in his use of icons like these because it certainly gives the setting an appeal for my generation. I'm not sure it will work as well for an international audience.

McGeachin's style is laid-back and easy to read, Charlie Berlin's character is well developed, and his wife Rebecca is a good foil ( )
  smik | Jan 3, 2013 |
Following on from the excellent THE DIGGER'S REST HOTEL, BLACKWATTLE CREEK sees Charlie Berlin and now wife Rebecca, 10 years on. Married with two kids, they are struggling to make ends meet on a policeman's wage, living in the glaringly new suburbs of Melbourne. With a solid but unremarkable career in the police behind him, Berlin's refuge from the demons that continue to haunt him after WWII, is his happy little family unit, despite his sometimes fractious relationship with his son Peter, despite their difficult financial circumstances, despite the sideline that Rebecca asks him to get involved in when on leave.

When a recently widowed friend tells Berlin a very odd tale of her husband's body being tampered with in a Melbourne funeral parlour, Berlin accidentally sets off down a path which proves dangerous to him, and to his family. It's the threat to his family, and his home and their pet dog that most riles Berlin, and a riled Charlie Berlin might still be a taciturn, quiet man, but he also becomes a very determined, taciturn, quiet man.

Coming straight to BLACKWATTLE CREEK without having read the first book, I think, is likely to be a big problem for some readers. Berlin is a very haunted, troubled, damaged man, and the difficulties he has with coping with the memories of what happened in WWII are particularly dwelt upon in this book. Without an understanding of how he came to have Rebecca and his family, how he struggled to get his life onto some sort of even keel in the opening to the series, possibly makes the level of angst appear all-consuming in the second book. Personally, I find Berlin a profoundly likeable man (and not just because the family own an Aussie Terrier!). He's flawed, but not unaware; questioning but not mired in self-pity; realistic and often startling honest.

He also doesn't play a solo-lone-wolf role. Wife Rebecca is refreshingly realistic - a mean hand in the kitchen, an enthusiastic lover and supporter of her husband, she's also an ex-journalist with a growing career as a photographer. She's combined with amongst others, Lazlo Horvay, an erratic and somewhat elusive Hungarian immigrant hearse driver, fleshing out a supporting cast of characters, including a colleague that pays a dreadful price for helping Berlin.

Underneath the characters and in particular, Berlin's struggle with life in general, there's an interesting Cold War style plot going on, with a disconcerting line in nasty characters doing unmentionable horrors all in the name of "research", all seemingly condoned by politics of the very worst kind.

Whilst the plot is strong, and Berlin and his family fascinating characters, one of the supplementary attractions of this series has to be the sense of place and time that they invoke. Even for a country kid, the milk bars, the bags of lollies, and fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper bought back memories, to say nothing of jumping jacks, tombola marbles, and great big lumbering Studebaker cars. Heaven help me if McGeachin leaves another 10 year gap in Berlin's life before the next book - then we're dangerously close to complete recall. Perhaps that's one of the great strengths of this series - as we're working through the book, feeling a decided sense of nostalgia for a society that's not that far away in terms of time and experience, you suddenly realise that the nostalgia is being chipped away by a realisation that there could have been some very nasty things going on, right under our rose-coloured glass view.

http://www.austcrimefiction.org/review/blackwattle-creek-geoffrey-mcgeachin ( )
  austcrimefiction | Jun 14, 2012 |
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It's September 1957, two days before the VFL grand final, and Detective Sergeant Charlie Berlin, former bomber pilot and ex-POW, finally has some time off. But there's no rest for Charlie, a decent but damaged man still troubled by his wartime experiences. A recently widowed friend asks a favour and he's dropped into something a hell of a lot bigger than he bargained for when he discovers a Melbourne funeral parlour has been burying bodies with parts missing. A Hungarian emigre hearse driver points Berlin in the right direction but it quickly becomes obvious anyone asking the wrong questions is in real danger.… (more)

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An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

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