Virgin Jackson is the senior ranger of a preserve of land known as Birrimun Park. With the park’s peace threatened by drug smugglers, Virgin partners with U.S. Marshall, Nate Sixkiller. It’s not a match made in heaven. While the pair bounce off of one another, bodies start falling. Virgin is the cops’ number one suspect, though their interest in her seems more personal than professional. Add imaginary animals, vodun, a gang war and the seven-year-old mystery surrounding the death of Virgin’s father, and the mystery deepens several-fold before unravelling.
‘Peacemaker’ sets a fast pace which only increases as the pages turn. I did like the way the reader is flung into the action and did not mind the seeming lack of explanation. I am not a reader who requires all my facts up front. I’m happy to play sink or swim. Marianne de Pierres’ world is near future and has a vaguely dystopian feel. Outside the preserve, the cities of the east coast of Australia seem to have merged into one large metropolis, little of which is safe to walk alone. Many territories are marked by gangs and some by regressive cults. The mix of Australian and south western American culture in the more civilized parts is very weird, as is the blend of characters which populate the story.
Virgin, herself, began to irritate me about a third of the way through the book. She’s headstrong, yes, but often stupidly so. The confounding part was the fact she did not appreciate the same trait in her companions. So while she ran off to do things that had to be done, she took exception at anyone but her reporter friend doing the same. In other words, she took the strong, independent female thing and stretched it a little too thin for my taste. But, all the other characters in the book like her. She’s feisty and charming. All the guys want her, and despite her prickly nature, feel the need to look out for her.
The mystery takes a back seat to Virgin’s antics as well. Often, I forgot the details of the plot while she hunted down another clue. It’s not a complicated plot, but not well served by the novel’s progression. Then there is the wide variety of secondary characters. Sorting them into their proper place is part of the story, certainly, but there are too many names and faces. By the end of the book, it feels like everyone is involved, which made me wonder why the death of Virgin’s father wasn’t investigated more thoroughly seven years ago.
Finally, I found the blend of cultures interesting, but as a native Australian, I felt more keenly the dilution of my own culture. That’s not a mark against the book, it’s more a comment on the author’s vision of the future. It seemed very un-Australian, as if all that made our country unique had been exchanged for something that better identified it to the rest of the world. Perhaps that’s a statement on the cultural shift going on down there right now.
‘Peacemaker’ is a fun and fast read. I found it lacking in some ways and I was frustrated by the dearth of information regarding the appearance of the imaginary animals. But there is a quick wrap up at the end that seems to set the scene for further adventures, so perhaps the story isn’t done.
(pub: Angry Robot Books, April 29, 2014. Mass Market Paperback, 416 pages. $7.19 (US) £4.76 (UK) ISBN: 978-0857664181)