Sticks and Stones by Katherine Firkin

‘He woke with a start as the final siren was sounding.’

Melbourne, Victoria. Detective Emmet Corban has been part of the Missing Persons Unit for a year. It’s a difficult job: most of the people who go missing don’t want to be found, and there’s a possibility that the Unit will be downsized.

Two new missing person cases are reported. Natale Gibson’s disappearance is totally out of character: she’s the mother of two young children, a member of a closely knit family. Rosemary Norman’s disappearance is reported by her brother, but she’s always been peripatetic. Is she missing, or is she travelling?

And then a mutilated body is discovered. The case is handed to Corban to investigate (the body belongs to one of his missing persons, so his team has already done some investigating). Then another body is found: is there a serial killer at work?

While the police investigations provide one view into the story, we are also in the third person view of the killer. We don’t know who the killer initially, just that he was once a very badly traumatised child:

‘He didn’t have to be normal, the boy realised. He just had to pretend.’

Who is the murderer? And why has he killed these women? Can he be caught before he kills anyone else?

I picked this novel up and read it in a day. It took me a few pages to get into the rhythm of the narrative, but I was quickly hooked. I thought I’d worked it out, and I did (eventually) but not until very close to the end.

This is Ms Firkin’s first novel and I hope it is not the last. Recommended.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith