The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland

‘The dog must have been howling for a good twenty minutes before Hal climbed up on the back fence to look for it.’

1966.  Hal Humphries and his younger brother Evan, together with their parents Corrie and John, have made the move to Moorabool in regional New South Wales.  A new start for the family, a job promotion for John.

Hal and Evan are exploring the area near their home when they find the body of a dog.  A dog that has only recently been killed and mutilated. 

Probationary Constable Mick Goodenough has also recently arrived in Moorabool.  And one of his dogs has gone missing.  When he finds the dog’s body, he is concerned.  Someone who tortures and kills animals might move onto other crimes.  But Mick’s superior, Sergeant Bradley, is not interested.  Mick may have once been a detective in Sydney, but he is in Moorabool on probation, under sufferance.

Hal’s father spends a lot of time away from home.  While he is away, Corrie starts receiving anonymous calls, and there is a prowler around the home.  Mick is the only one of the town’s policemen who take this seriously.  More crimes are committed: is the dog killer escalating?

Moorabool has a dark past.  Hal is fascinated by the murders that took place in the abandoned caravan and talks to his new friend Allie Tenpenny about them.  But after Allie tells him something he does not want to believe; they have a falling out.

The narration is shared between Hal and Mick, who form an alliance while trying to work out what is happening.  There are secrets in Moorabool: cover-ups and corruption have made it easy for some criminal activity to be ignored, and racism compounds that.

Mick learns about more animal deaths, and Hal finds the body of a murdered woman.  Who killed her?  Sergeant Bradley believes it was her husband: he has a confession.  But there is something not right, and then Hal goes missing.

Can Mick find him?

There’s plenty of tension in this novel, and some memorable characters (especially Hal, Allie and Mick).  And who is ‘The Night Whistler’?  You may be surprised.

Note: My thanks to NetGalley and Text Publishing for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book for review purposes. 

Jennifer Cameron-Smith