‘This is Forest Dempsey. Be careful what you wish for.’
Pirates Bay, Tasman Peninsula, Tasmania. A thirteen-year-old boy walks out of the sea. There is a tattoo on his back: can he really be Forest Dempsey? Forest was believed dead: he went missing seven years ago.
The Dempsey family are well known on the Tasman Peninsula. They operate Dempsey Abalone and, using this as cover together with the weather, run a drug ring. Forest’s father Jesse was in charge, until he, his wife and Forest disappeared. His brother Davey now runs the operation, their other brother Mackenzie (known to most as Mackerel), out of gaol on strict bail, is shunned by the family including his mother Ivy.
‘Black wind at morning, sailors take warning. Black wind at night, death is in sight.’
The reappearance of Forest throws the family into crisis. Where has Forest been for all those years? Is his return tied to the emergence of the infamous Blackbeard, rumoured to be manoeuvring for a takeover of the Dempsey’s drug empire?
The story unfolds mainly through the perspectives of Mackerel Dempsey, his cousin Ahab Stark, and young Forest Dempsey. Family secrets and mysteries all have a part to play, as does the setting. Mackerel Dempsey is fighting to keep out of trouble before his next court appearance. His mother Ivy treats him with contempt. Ahab Stark is fighting his own demons and has renounced the family drug business. He has seen the cost firsthand. And Forest is surrounded by mystery.
I picked this novel up and could not put it down. I am familiar with many of the landmarks of the Tasman Peninsula and could just imagine the story unfolding there. Mr Perry has provided several well-developed characters for me to like (or loathe) and while parts of the story made me uncomfortable, I liked the way it was all drawn together in the end.