BOOK CLUB: Purgatory

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[Total: 5 Average: 4.8]

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.

14 thoughts on “BOOK CLUB: Purgatory

  1. Purgatory by Robert M. Smith (Shawline Publishing Group) is a well written book, with a slow burning and compelling storyline.

    From the moment Senior Constable Greg Bowker and his wife Rachael arrive in Manangatang, there is tension, and the suspense builds as the reader pieces together just what is going on…

    The people in the remote Mallee town like many such small, ‘quiet’ communities, have secrets. Some things have been hushed up, but it is not long before dubious activities, dangerous relationships, and potentially sinister cover ups begin to surface.

    However it is not just the town that has secrets. Senior Constable Bowker’s posting to Manangatang is clearly a banishment, but for what? And why are he and his wife so nervous? Is Manangatang the purgatory they have been sent to, to redeem themselves?

    Purgatory is a great read with evocative scene setting, excellent character development and like all good thrillers it is full of suspenseful excitement.

    1. Thanks for those kind thoughts. I really enjoyed writing the book and it brought back fond memories of my ten years teaching in Manangatang.

  2. ‘Purgatory’ by Robert M. Smith was another great book from the Shawline Publishing Group and a big thankyou to them and to Beautyandlace for a truly 5 star read.

    The story is set in the 1980’s and Greg Bowker and his partner Rachel in their old Peugeot are headed for Manangatong a very small town in the remote interior. A senior constable Greg had been posted there from Ballarat. Its population is just 419 and the heat and dust there is dreadful. The post from Ballarat is a welcome one as they have reasons to get as far away from Ballarat as possible.
    Greg soon finds settling into a small country town challenging especially when he has dealings with 16 year old Yvonne Bryant and her boyfriend Skeeta Allender.
    The community welcomes Greg and soon both Greg and Rachel are included in local sports teams, and the community appreciates his clamping down on undesirable activities in their area.
    All the locals have nicknames which I found amusing and descriptions of the countryside and small towns gave a feeling of actually being there.
    It was interesting too, to read of Greg’s encounter with the Min Min lights and how the community dealt with a mouse plague.

    1. My appreciation for your positive comments Gilli. There are many things I remember about living in Manangatang , virtually all positive. However, one experience I lived through which I never want repeated was the mouse plague. The anecdotes in the novel only scratch the surface of what it is like when the mice invade. Luckily it only happens once in a while.

      Again, thanks for your review.

  3. Thanks Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read Robert M. Smith’s novel Purgatory a great 5 star read. The novel is set in Victorian Mallee area – an area I was familiar with in the 1980’s when a young senior constable and his partner are transferred to the town after some drama in Ballarat. The constable settles into the town and becomes concerned about the welfare of 2 teenagers what follows is a disappearance and a murder and we are taken on the journey to discover what actually happens.
    A great read and one I thoroughly enjoyed.

    1. Thanks for those positive thoughts, Fiona. As someone who lived in the Mallee during the era of the book, I’m sure a few of the things mentioned in the novel brought a smile (or perhaps a grimace) to your face. I taught in Manangatang for a decade and look back on my time there with great fondness.

  4. Thank you to Shawline Publishing and Beauty and Lace Club for my copy. I also must add that Shawline always wrap their books in brown paper and I love the personal touch!

    This book was pretty good for a debut novel. The cover represents the harsh climate where the story takes place and is also eyecatching.

    I loved that the story was set in the 80’s and is back to basics like reading actual maps to find a place, no internet and good old fashioned Police investigating.
    The author was raised on a farm in country Victoria which shows in his descriptions of farming machinary and how it works, plus the mouse plague which sounded quite overwhelming and horrific.
    I loved all the Aussie nicknames, most characters seemed to have one and the hilarious Aussie dry humor throughout the book. The description of the dry, harsh conditions and oppressive heat were described very well, could almost feel it as I was reading.
    The story is mostly based around the new Constable in town, Greg Bowler and his girlfriend Rachael. The town has it’s secrets, but so do Greg and Rachael which comes out later in the book.
    In the prologue a body is discovered and it’s not until later in the book that the murder occurs. There is no shortage of people with motive for the murder and I never picked who it was.
    The story flowed well and I found it interesting right from the start and read it in quick time. The book also deals with town secrets, alcoholism, neglected and abused teenagers and has a couple of other juicy, unexpected secrets.
    Overall, a good rural mystery, well written with enough to keep me entertained without being complicated.
    4 stars

    1. Thanks for taking the time to read ‘Purgatory’ and writing an extensive review Tracey. The climate and remoteness of the setting are important parts of the story that you have rightly identified. And I loved the way you picked up on ‘the old fashioned police investigating’. It was fun writing the story without the complications of whether something was picked up on CCTV or a character being tipped off by mobile phone before the police could check a story. These become issues in ‘The Price of Justice’, the sequel to ‘Purgatory’ when Greg Bowker returns to the Mallee to investigate the murder mentioned in the last pages of this book.

  5. First of all, thankyou to Beauty and Lace and Shawline Publishing Group for the opportunity to read and review this book.

    Set in the early 1980’s, Greg Bowker moves to a remote and dying Mallee town with his partner Rachel. We meet Yvonne who has had a rough life growing up and then when she goes missing and is subsequently found dead, Greg does everything possible to find her killer. Many twists and turns in this amazing book by Robert M.Smith, the epilogue at the end made me laugh. Karma. What goes around, comes around.

    1. Thanks so much for reading the book Melissa and taking the time to write these positive words. Yes, what goes around comes around as you say. And that becomes the centre of the now homicide detective Bowker’s foray back into the Mallee in the sequel, ‘The Price of Justice’ which is due for release later this year.

  6. Thank you Melissat for your extensive and positive review of my novel ‘Purgatory’. I am delighted that you highlighted the things I was determined to include – the climate and remoteness of the town, the realism and depth of characters, and the clear chain of investigation that finally led to Bowker getting his man.

    Please accept my sincere appreciation for taking the time to read the novel, your five star rating, and your recommendation for others to read the book.

  7. Purgatory by Robert M Smith is a thrilling fiction setting in the 1980’s.

    When Greg Bowker, a young senior constable is transferred to a remote town to manage the one-person police station, he is well-received by the community. However, it is not long when he is faced with a disappearance and a murder and is subsequently thrown into an awful world of darkness and deception.

    The author described the harsh, very warm Australian climate well and I felt the dust through his writing. I enjoyed the characters in this story and felt very drawn to them. I especially loved that this story was set in the 80’s – before the convenience of the internet. With plenty of unexpected secrets thrown in, this was an engaging and very hard-to-put down novel.

    Thank you very much Beauty and Lace and Shawline Publishing Group for the opportunity to read and review this gripping novel. It is overall a great book to read, especially for lovers of murder mystery.

    1. Thanks for that positive review, Christine. As I’ve written in one of the responses above, I was very keen to make the remoteness and climate a key part of the book. Having lived in Manangatang for a decade, I know how crucial these factors are in the way people live, socialise and create a way of life.

      I am really pleased you liked the novel, and am appreciative of you taking the time to write down your thoughts.

  8. Thanks Beauty and Lace for the opportunity to read Purgatory by Author Robert M Smity. I felt nostalgic reading this novel set in the 80’s in the Victorian Malee area. The plot follows young Constable Greg Bowker along with his partner Rachel, who is transferred to the one Officer Station of a dying and very remote town. The Author’s use of character nicknames tickled my fancy and evokes a sense of affection and familiarity with each character. The great use of descriptive language transports the reader to the plights and emotions of the characters and you can imagine the scenes vividly. With secrets, motives and mystery, this is a real page turner that was hard to put down. I thoroughly recommend this to readers who enjoy the suspense of trying to figure out a plot with many plot surprises. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel.

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