Stone Town

by Margaret Hickey

Bantam Australia 2022

Publisher’s blurb

With its gold-rush history long in the past, Stone Town has seen better days. And it’s now in the headlines for all the wrong reasons . . .

When three teenagers stumble upon a body in dense bushland one rainy Friday night, Senior Sergeant Mark Ariti’s hopes for a quiet posting in his old home town are shattered. The victim is Aidan Sleeth, a property developer, whose controversial plan to buy up local land means few are surprised he ended up dead.

However, his gruesome murder is overshadowed by a mystery consuming the entire nation: the disappearance of Detective Sergeant Natalie Whitsed.

Natalie had been investigating the celebrity wife of crime boss Tony ‘The Hook’ Scopelliti when she vanished. What did she uncover? Has it cost her her life? And why are the two Homicide detectives, sent from the city to run the Sleeth case, so obsessed with Natalie’s fate?

Following a late-night call from his former boss, Mark is sure of one thing: he’s now in the middle of a deadly game . . .

Reviewer: Moraig Kisler

Margaret Hickey’s second novel Stone Town in my opinion is even better than her debut crime novel Cutter’s End (winner of the Danger Award 2022 and shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for first fiction 2022. Hickey has a PhD in Creative Writing with a focus on landscape in Australian literature, and is deeply engaged in rural lives and communities.

Following the death of his mother, recently divorced Mark Ariti transfers to Stone Town, a former gold-mining township deep in the bush. What Ariti thinks will be an easy country posting in his childhood home Stone Town turns out to be the opposite – with a missing policewoman and the death of a local property developer. Stone Town is a complex novel with strong mysteries at its core and is a compulsive read. Ariti’s challenge to crack buried secrets and interconnecting ties reflects those of rural community. Hickey’s depiction of not only the landscape but also its inhabitants is masterful. She gives credible insight into life in a country town and, in particular, its lifeblood – remarkable women.  The Country Women’s Association in this rural town does much more than bake scones. “You want a job done…you ask a Nanna.”

Stone Turn is chock full with twists, turns and dark surprises; and Hickey’s characters are well developed. I was delighted to see the return of Senior Constable Jagdeep Kaur. Hopefully the series will continue.

Fans of rural crime fiction will love Stone Town. I did, and Stone Town should be high on readers ‘must read’ lists.