IF THERE'S one thing even more engrossing than a carefully researched historical novel with the name ‘Thomas Keneally’ on the cover, it’s one crafted by Keneally in partnership with his daughter Meg.
One of Australia’s most prolific and successful authors, Keneally senior has covered the country’s heritage extensively in both fact and fiction throughout a half-century-long professional writing career.
His imagined storylines set against real-life locations and happenings are particularly intriguing – and that trend continues with the release of the Keneally father-daughter team’s follow-up book together, The Unmourned.
A second instalment in a series begun last year with former convicts Hugh Llewellyn Monsarrat and Hannah Mulrooney as its main protagonists, this new release sees the pair embark on a fresh crime-solving endeavour in the early decades of colonial New South Wales.
Monsarrat, having been granted a ticket of leave for his work in solving a murder in the penal settlement at Port Macquarie, has relocated to Parramatta, where he is employed by day as a clerk to the NSW Governor’s right-hand man.
His skill as an investigator has not been forgotten, however, and when the superintendent of the infamous Parramatta Female Factory is stabbed to death, Monsarrat is called on to go scouting for the perpetrator.
The obvious suspect is one of the prison’s hardened inmates, Irish rebel Grace O’Leary – a woman whose hatred of the now-dead Robert Church has long been common knowledge. Few among the colony’s authoritative figures would oppose having O’Leary hanged for the crime yet Monsarrat and Mulrooney are determined to see due process followed, even if that means drawing the displeasure of some of the town’s most influential individuals.
Are they being duped by a guilty O’Leary, or will an as-yet-unknown attacker be identified as the true killer of a cruel, conniving tyrant who few upstanding citizens have felt any compulsion to mourn?