The Silent Inheritance: Joy Dettman


Dettman 2016

Review: Lesley Vick


Sarah Carter, mother of 12-year-old Marni, is raising her daughter alone in a small granny flat in suburban Melbourne. A serial killer, dubbed ‘The Freeway Killer’, is headline news and when Marni’s classmate is abducted from the mall where Sarah and Marni shop, their city no longer feels safe. Detective Ross Hunter’s investigation into the abduction leads him to dead ends – until an unrelated incident sends him to the door of Freddy Adam-Jones, an unscrupulous barrister, who is guarding a secret that could ruin his life. When an unexpected windfall changes the lives of Sarah and Marni, their sudden wealth opens doors long closed, and threatens to cast light on history better left buried. What might Sarah’s past reveal? What is her connection to Freddy? And can Detective Ross Hunter discover the link in time to save a young girl’s life?


Joy Dettman, established author of the Woody Creek series, has several seemingly unconnected narratives running through this page-turner. The third person points of view are presented intermittently and this enables us to get to know aspects of several of the characters, including the cold-hearted serial killer who sees himself as a sort of wolf. As the story begins he has already killed several girls whom he abducted then eventually killed before dumping their bodies on a freeway in garbage bags.

Single mother Sarah is financially strapped and living frugally in Melbourne with her daughter Marni. An unusual protagonist, Sarah is deaf and while she does have a job and is a strong minded person she relies to some extent on her feisty daughter Marni, herself an impressive, mature and independent girl. Their lives are transformed financially when they have a lotto win but this windfall also risks exposing some secrets from Sarah’s past – a past which she has kept hidden from Marni. When Marni’s classmate is abducted from near where they live Sarah, who is utterly devoted to her daughter, becomes even more determined to keep their lives private and protect Marni from harm.

Meanwhile, Detective Ross Hunter is on the trail of the serial killer while the latest, courageous abductee is striving to stay alive and hoping to escape before being killed. Another significant character, the unattractive Freddy Adam-Jones, has his own potentially devastating secret to keep while maintaining his successful legal career and struggling to improve his unsuccessful marriage and rein in his wayward son.

Detective Hunter’s investigation eventually brings together these various threads, reveals the connections between the various characters we have come to know and brings the story to a gripping and somewhat unexpected climax. Residents of suburban Melbourne (the Blackburn/ Vermont area) will enjoy identifying places known to them.