BOOK CLUB: Purgatory

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Purgatory by Australian author Robert M. Smith is a gripping murder mystery set in the 1980s. It’s filled with suspense and a plot you must disentangle before you can turn off the light.

Senior Constable Greg Bowker finds himself relocated from his station in Ballarat to a Mallee town in northwest Victoria, Australia. The transfer to a one-officer station in Manangatang was his only option otherwise he would be looking for a new career.

The isolated town has a much lower population of 419 than what Greg and wife Rachael are accustomed to and soon learn the labelling of the township Purgatory is quite fitting.  

With a note left by his predecessor Senior Constable Roy Pace, Greg was not expecting much to happen in town apart from keeping a look out for a few certain people he had been warned about – one being Yvonne Bryant, a wayward teen who had moved up from Melbourne after the death of her mother. Little does he know how connected they would become. 

In Cocamba, located approximately 10km from Manangatang, Ferret Igoe was working at the silos when he smelt something pungent. He was desperate to find where it was coming from before the grain arrived Monday, searching the area and looking for roadkill. It ended up being his kelpie that found the decomposed body at the bottom of the grain shed.  

For a town where nothing ever happens, Officer Bowker now has a disappearance and suspected homicide on his hands. As he pieces together evidence to uncover the truth, he gets more than what he has bargained for. 

Smith spent time with the storyline development and character-building, including the ambience of a rural small town. The description of the Mallee Is perfectly captured, you could feel the heat from the fierce sun and the dust from the dryness of the land. 

I loved how the author captured the feelings different people might have living in a small community. Each of the characters felt like real people instead of fictional characters, they are capable, smart, strong, passionate, deadly, and believable. 

The author’s use of figurative language throughout the book was beautifully chosen to evoke real emotions and to allow me to picture the events in my mind as they unfolded. 

The immediate feeling I had upon finishing this novel was one of satisfaction. While not everything in the plot goes the way you might first imagine it, the interesting and intricate strands which come together during the investigation are deeply rewarding to discover and be surprised by. 

It highlights how good, solid police procedures can lead to the evidence needed to help solve a case. 

Overall, I cannot recommend Purgatory highly enough for fans of this genre, especially if you enjoy unique angles and mysteries jam-packed with plenty of unexpected surprises. Robert M. Smith shows a remarkable talent, and I look forward to his next novel. 

Thank you, Beauty and Lace and Shawline Publishing Group for the opportunity to read and review. 

A selection of our members are reading Purgatory by Robert M. Smith. You can read their comments below, or add your own review.

18 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Purgatory

  1. Hi Robert.

    Well I finally turned the last page tonight (16th October 2023) of your fabulous murder mystery “Purgatory “. Just amazing Robert and this is the first of this genre that I have ever had the pleasure to read. Initially it was the mention of real Mallee towns like Sea Lake where I spent my school years that got me intrigued but I soon found the storyline got me hooked where I simply couldn’t put your novel down. I cannot wait for your second novel “The Price of Justice “ to be released so I lose myself in the pages once more. An evocative and beautifully crafted portrait set against the Victorian wheatbelt landscape.

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