I love a good yarn set in my hometown. I love books that are deft and go at a cracking pace and offer twists that are seem so natural just moments after you’ve gone WTF? I love books that reflect diverse characters with great depth and texture. I love books that portray experiences outside my own. I love books that finish with a sense of satisfaction and yet as though the characters and their lives will go on after I’ve put the book down.
It’s hardly a wonder then, that I loved Emma Viskic’s Resurrection Bay so completely. I got so excited by developments when I was a quarter of the way through it, in fact, that I started sending tweets to the author along the lines of [engage allcaps] HOLY MOTHER OF HADES THIS BIT, THIS BIT, THIS BIT RIGHT HERE, OH. MY. GOOOOOOOOOOOOOD!!!!
Fortunately, the author seemed to respond well to my gleeful flailing over a few days.
So now, dear reader, I will flail gleefully at YOU.
We meet Caleb Zelic holding the blood-soaked corpse of his childhood friend, Gary, a policeman who was doing some work for Caleb’s security business on the side. It’s a few pages before we realise that Caleb’s difficulty communicating with emergency services isn’t only due to shock – Caleb is deaf, though he doesn’t like to draw attention to the fact.
From this distressing beginning, things just get worse and worse for Caleb. Filled with guilt for the death of his friend, suspected by the police and desperate to not be one of the bodies that is starting to pile up, Caleb and his partner Frankie seem always a step behind. It soon becomes clear that it’s not certain who they can trust. Is Caleb’s drug addict brother part of this awful mess? Who is Scott, who is implicated but whom no-one seems to know?
The action takes place around Melbourne and the coastal town of Resurrection Bay, where Caleb grew up. At one stage I was on the #86 tram, reading, when one of the characters was also on the tram. (And yes, reader, I did have an idle look around for him. Just in case. But he wasn’t actually there. Under the circumstances, this was probably a Good Thing.)
Caleb is a terrific lead character – likeable and capable, but flawed. His stubbornness can be admirable at times, but it’s also the thing that leaves the people he loves just a little outside. Because he relies on more than his “hearing” (via fallible hearing aid and lip-reading), he sometime sees more than he wants to say. He sometimes turns away so he doesn’t have to read things he doesn’t want to know. He tends to keep a distance between himself and other people. But you live in his world while you read – the anxiety of not always catching what people are saying, the patronising way people can be when they realise he’s deaf, and, oh hell yes, the strangely silent world of fighting for your life when one of your senses is barred to you. (Viskic notes in her afterword that she worked closely with people in the Deaf community to ensure Caleb’s sensory experiences were accurately reflected.)
Frankie, his partner, is a woman with challenges of her own, as an alcoholic ex-cop, and Caleb’s ex-wife, Kat, is a fabulously strong, dynamic character – a Koori woman, an artist, who is not impressed with his sometimes selective communications.These two very different and very textured women are an excellent foil to Caleb’s strengths and failings.
With these great characters, the Victorian location, and the punchy writing, you’ve got it all – crime, danger, love, heartbreak, betrayal, murder, hope, violence, and enough surprises to keep you wolfing down the words right to the very end.
I look forward to more from Emma Viskic in future, and, I hope, more of Caleb Zelic.
Buy Resurrection Bay:
Resurrection Bay (Five Mile Press)
Resurrection Bay (Booktopia)
Resurrection Bay (Readings)
Resurrection Bay (Kobo)
Resurrection Bay (iBooks)