The Unbelieved

By Vikki Petraitis

Allen & Unwin 2022

Publisher’s blurb

‘So you believed the alleged rapists over the alleged victim?’ Jane’s voice took on an indignant pitch. ‘Girls lie sometimes.’ I nodded. ‘And rapists lie all the time.’

When Senior Detective Antigone Pollard moves to the coastal town of Deception Bay, she is still in shock and grief. Back in Melbourne, one of her cases had gone catastrophically wrong, and to escape the guilt and the haunting memories, she’d requested a transfer to the quiet town she’d grown up in.

But there are some things you can’t run from. A month into her new life, she is targeted by a would-be rapist at the pub, and realises why there have been no convictions following a spate of similar sexual attacks in the surrounding district. The male witnesses in the pub back her attacker and even her boss doesn’t believe her.

Hers is the first reported case in Deception Bay, but soon there are more. As Antigone searches for answers, she encounters a wall of silence in the town built of secrets and denial and fear. The women of Deception Bay are scared and the law is not on their side. The nightmare has followed her home.

Reviewer: Moraig Kisler

What can Vikki Petraitis not do! Over thirty years, she has produced a formidable body of true crime books including best-seller The Frankston Murders about serial killer Paul Denyer, and The Phillip Island Murder which has been featured in several TV shows and podcasts. Her podcast series with Casefile Presents has been downloaded over three million times. And now her first crime fiction book The Unbelieved is winner of the inaugural Allen & Unwin crime fiction prize – and rightly so.

The Unbelieved is a gripping novel about domestic violence and sexual assault where female survivors of violence and sexual assault in an all too real country town are treated as offenders. Petraitis’s many years of interviewing survivors of crime brings credibility to her writing: the shattering impact of violence and sexual assault on survivors, families and the community. The Unbelieved explodes from the page and is utterly compelling, but there are base notes of righteous anger and frustration throughout the novel. The Unbelieved is much more readable than other novels of the same topic because it is laced with moments of delightful humour and is certainly a novel for our times.

Petraitis has created a wonderful characters in Antigone Pollard: a kick-arse copper determined to help the terrified women of a small town kick down the walls of deceit, male privilege and patriarchy. The Unbelieved is a must read: gripping to the last page.

A little bird told me a sequel is on its way – the sooner the better.