It’s 1830. William Burr is recovering from injuries after his latest skirmish chasing mahogany pirates in British Honduras when he receives a request from an old friend in Van Diemen’s Land offering him a reward for the capture of a notorious convict turned outlaw, Brown George Coyne. As soon as Burr arrives in Hobart Town, he witnesses Ellen Vaughan, wife of a magistrate, being abducted by three men in broad daylight. Sabre swinging, Burr gives chase and manages to seriously maim one of them before they escape.
Ellen eludes her captors with the help of Robert Ringa, an Aboriginal brought in from the mainland to track down absconders, both black and white. Like Burr, Ringa is also an interloper in this strange, mythical country and has his own struggles with the consequences. The ruthless and maniacal Coyne has officials in his pocket and grandiose designs to take over the colony.
Overseeing the seek-and-destroy process is the uptight and unpopular Lieutenant Governor George Arthur, who struggles to maintain law and order in a society that gives the finger to both as it tries to build a Little England “on a dung-heap” and where the pristine beauty of the landscape is in sharp contrast to the corrupt and vile rabble that infests it.
This extraordinary novel is an amalgam of the literary, romantic and cinematic. All the characters – real or imagined – are tackled with cool style. The descriptions are vivid, the verbal ripostes witty, the humour macabre. It’s a violently graphic cornucopia; it’s Errol Flynn meets Tarantino in Deadwood down-under. This ride is so outrageous, fast-paced and exhilarating that any anachronisms glimpsed in passing don’t matter.
Lenny Bartulin has an exciting new voice in historical adventure that goes well beyond old-fashioned swash-and-buckle and confidently busts loose into new territory. Brilliant!