DIRTY WEEKEND
Gabrielle Lord

 


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Hodder Australia, 2005
Reviewed by Kerrie Smith, January 2008

Crime fiction, forensic procedural

Jack McCain is the acting chief scientist in the Criminalistics section of the Australian Federal Police. As a supervisor, he is supposed to be delegating more, and certainly not answering calls to crime scenes. And yet here he is, in the carpark of Canberra's Blackspot Nightclub, where the body of a former colleague has been found. So begins the first case in Gabrielle Lord's DIRTY WEEKEND.

Jack McCain, former alcoholic, is now a workaholic who has trouble building relationships with people because he lets his work rule his life. He runs from intimacy, from revealing his hopes and fears. His relationship with Iona, who has moved from Sydney to live with him, is in danger of collapse because he constantly puts work first. His first marriage collapsed for the same reason, and his children have become used to his absence from their lives. But Jack strongly believes in what he is doing and that makes it nigh impossible for him to work 9 to 5.

Just as Jack is preparing to go home at the end of a long day, the second case emerges. The head of Canberra's Agricultural Research Station contacts Jack with a delicate situation involving two of his research scientists. Their work is straightforward agricultural research on rabbit control, involving highly infectious materials, supposedly only dangerous if you are a rabbit. Claire Dimitriou is not to be found although her car is in the car park, and the door to the secure area appears to be open. Jack discovers Dimitriou's body on the floor of a lab that has been meticulously steam-cleaned. That and the fact that her research partner Peter Yu has gone missing, their research log has gone, and that the lab no longer houses any of the research rabbits, rings alarm bells. At least a couple of people witnessed Peter and Claire in the lab arguing vehemently, she in tears, and he very angry.

DIRTY WEEKEND presents one puzzle after another. Two strands of investigation become many, including a twenty-year old cold case. The reader is right with Jack McCain, reading crime scenes, evaluating evidence, drawing conclusions. Gabrielle Lord's detailed research is evident both in the development of the novel's main themes, and the technologies used in the forensic investigations. Jack solves cases with a mixture of careful forensic investigation, memories of earlier cases, and intuition.

DIRTY WEEKEND is in many ways a brave novel. Gabrielle Lord determinedly uses Australian colloquialisms, carefully describes Australian settings, and places Australian events, and Australian scientific research, in a world setting. Watch out also for Lord's quirky sense of humour seen in Faithful Bunnies, Terminator Rabbit, a thief called the "giant chicken", and even in the book's title.

Thirteen novels in ten years is no mean feat, and in that time Gabrielle has collected two awards: The Ned Kelly Award for best novel in 2002 for DEATH DELIGHTS, and a Davitt Award in 2003 for the best Australian crime novel by an Australian woman. DIRTY WEEKEND is the third in Jack McCain series: look for DEATH DELIGHTS and LETHAL FACTOR. If you'd like to find out more about Gabrielle Lord, check her website out at http://www.gabriellelord.com. Currently she is writing CONSPIRACY 365 -- a twelve-volume YA crime/ thriller/ mystery/ series for Scholastic Publishing.

Jan 2008

 

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