SNAKE ISLAND by Ben Hobson

From the publisher:

For fans of Cormac McCarthy, Phillip Meyer, Fargo, and Justified, a gritty rural noir thriller about family, drugs, and the legacy of violence.

In an isolated town on the coast of southern Australia, Vernon Moore and his wife, Penelope, live in retirement, haunted by an unspeakable act of violence that sent their son, Caleb, to serve time in prison and has driven the couple apart. Ashamed, they refuse to talk about him or visit, but when a close friend warns Vernon that Caleb has been savagely beaten, he has no choice but to act to protect their only child.

The perpetrator of the beating is a local thug from a crime family whose patriarch holds sway over the town, with the police in his pay. Everyone knows they trade in drugs. When Vernon maneuvers to negotiate a deal with the father, he makes a critical error. His mistake unleashes a cycle of violence that escalates to engulf the whole town, taking lives with it, revealing what has been hiding in plain sight in this picturesque rural community and threatening to overtake his son.

Told from shifting perspectives at a sprint, in language that sometimes approaches the simple profundity of parable, this gritty debut was hailed on its Australian publication as “a darkly illuminating thriller that soars across genre constraints . . . [and] engages with pressing contemporary issues while exploring timeless questions. Hobson writes as if his life depends on it” (The Australian).

This is the author’s second announced published book. It is an interesting concept coupled with some good writing. The story is set in Australia on the southwestern coast with the city of Melbourne fairly close to it. Vernon Moore and his wife Penelope are in retirement and living there. Their tranquility is interrupted when their son Caleb is arrested and imprisoned for beating up his wife. The couple have not visited him for two years and talk about how ashamed they are of his conduct.

The story begins when a close friend of Vernon advises him that Caleb has been beaten up by the son of a local crime family who apparently had looked to marry the girl who was beaten. The action against his son moves Vernon to do something about the situation with himself and his wife coming to the realization that the boy is their son and they can’t just desert him.

In a well-done narrative, Ben Hobson brings out the causes and effects that Vernon’s actions bring to his own family and to others in the area. In turn actions by the family of the man that beat up Caleb bring in two men from Melbourne who are suppliers of drugs to them. The act causes an auto crash that causes the drugs being brought in to disappear with the Melbourne gangsters doing what they deem necessary to recoup their goods.

The simple act of trying to help Caleb brings in the local police, with the fact that the Sargent in charge is a customer of the Melbourne group, a clergyman intent on bringing peace to everyone involved, and other members of the small community living there. Deaths occur due to the conflicting actions of those concerned and an interesting tale comes to its conclusion.

10/2020 Paul Lane

SNAKE ISLAND by Ben Hobson. Arcade Crimewise (October 20, 2020). ISBN: 978-1950691715. 304 pages.







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