Book Review: Wimmera by Mark Brandi

Title: Wimmera

Author: Mark Brandi

Genre: Crime Fiction

Number of Pages: 262

Rating: B+

Recommended?: Yes

TW: Pedophilia, Incest, Suicide

It’s 1989, and best friends Fab and Ben spent their days outdoors with minimal parental supervision. Ben is at the special point in his development where he can’t seem to think about anything but sex, but his obsession with his own penis is offset by his discomfort over the suicide of his teenage neighbor Daisy.

When Daisy’s family moves out of the house a new guy named Ronnie moves in who shows a special interest in Ben. Ben is hired to do odd jobs for him and even though Ronnie’s an adult he starts hanging out with him and Fab, a problematic fact that is ignored by their parents. Years later, Fab must face up to the series of events that unfolded after Ben was raped by Ronnie.

Needless to say, this was a sad and disturbing book about taboo subject matter. The writing style is easy and conversational and flows well, while evoking strong images of small-town Australia. I didn’t find Fab and Ben particularly likable (which in no way suggests that what happened to them wasn’t horrific and tragic, but they were pretty cruel kids at times), but they are believable characters that have a strong and affecting bond.

I did get kind of sick of Ben’s constant horniness. I’m not sure how old he was supposed to be- eleven? twelve? but the constant focus on his masturbation habits and staring at different women’s boobs was a little much. There was also a lot of objectification of women, but I assumed that was a reflection of the male characters rather than the author. I would have liked to see the female characters developed a little more.

I think it’s really interesting that this book was rescued from the slush pile. The author can really write a compelling story and Wimmera is loaded with atmosphere, making me feel like I was in sweaty, sticky heat of rural Australia during the dead of summer. I’m looking forward to reading this author’s other books and I recommend it to people who like more character-driven thrillers and aren’t triggered by the subject of child sexual abuse.

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