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Moonlight Downs [Kindle Edition]

Adrian Hyland
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Packs a real wallop. . . . An epic and ambitious mystery set against the vast backdrop of Central Australia, where indigenous and white people live side by side in an uneasy truce.”—Vogue (Australia)

“Incorporates geophysical data, race politics and aboriginal spirituality into a seamless, often hilarious stream of narrative. [It] has all the hallmarks of a first of a very successful series with the potential to forge a new sub-genre of detective fiction—that of a feisty, female indigenous sleuth whose intelligence and tenacity prove superior to force and ignorance.”—The Sydney Morning Herald

“Witty, knowing, at times downright hilarious. The plot is absorbing and Hyland’s characters are originals. . . . As Emily Tempest untangles the knot of a murder, she also comes to rediscover her past, her belonging and her self.”—Brisbane Courier Mail

Emily Tempest, a feisty part-aboriginal woman, left home to get an education and has since traveled abroad. She returns to visit the Moonlight Downs “mob,” still uncertain if she belongs in the aboriginal world or that of the whitefellers. Within hours of her arrival, an old friend is murdered and mutilated. The police suspect a rogue aborigine, but Emily starts asking questions. Emily Tempest, a modern half-aboriginal sleuth, is a welcome successor to Arthur Upfield’s classic detective.

Adrian Hyland worked with aboriginal communities in Central Australia for ten years.  He now teaches at LaTrobe University in Melbourne. This is his first novel.


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Australian Hyland's rewarding debut opens with half-aboriginal Emily Tempest returning to the Outback blackfeller camp of Moonlight Downs after years of traveling around the world. Just as Emily is settling in, her dear friend Lincoln Flinders, a highly respected community leader, is found strangled and missing a kidney. The mutilation points to the local sorcerer, Blakie Japanangka. Emily, with the help of police sergeant Tom McGillivray, tries to track down Blakie, who has escaped into the hills. When doubts about Blakie's guilt arise, suspicion falls on several people connected to land ownership disputes, leading to a series of rather unbelievable action scenes. The true strength of this beautifully written novel lies in Emily's ambivalent feelings about her culture and her complex interactions with Hazel Flinders, the murdered man's daughter and Emily's former best friend. Their relationship, and the way Emily moves between aboriginal and white society, provide the tension lacking in the mystery half of the plot. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

About the Author

Adrian Hyland won Australia's Ned Kelly 2007 Award for Best First Novel for Moonlight Downs. He spent many years in the Northern Territory living and working among the indigenous people. He now teaches at LaTrobe University and lives in Melbourne.

Product Details

  • File Size: 785 KB
  • Print Length: 337 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1569474834
  • Publisher: Soho Crime (February 1, 2008)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004HYHA6W
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #625,023 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A precious gem of a book not to be missed January 12, 2008
Format:Hardcover
The author, Adrian Hyland, spent many years living and working with indigenous people in the Northern Territory; MOONLIGHT DOWNS is a story told with a great deal of affection for the people. Their spiritual connection to the land and its native animals is particularly well described. He makes no attempt to gloss over the dysfunctional aspects of life in the remoter areas of the Northern Territory, both European and Aboriginal.Emily regards her community with a mixture of deep love and exasperation at the destructiveness of some of the behaviour she witnesses.

There are other issues raised in the book. The inevitable clash of cultures and lack of understanding that results. Conflicting interests of farming, mining and aboriginal land claims, the politicization of these interests and the odd mix of people who seem to be attracted to such remote areas. The real achievement that Hyland has managed to pull off is the fact that he vividly portrays all these aspects of life in the outback without making any judgements and without trying to push the reader down the path towards a particular opinion. He leaves that entirely up to the individual.

Hyland has also injected a wonderful dry humour into the book. Expressions such as "rough as emus knees", "he belonged to the von Ribbentrop school of negotiation" and "been taking deportment lessons from a Rottweiler" are genuinely funny. The author also has a gift for description; " Gladys herself was a battleship on stilts. She wasn't much older than me, but she'd exploded in every direction. She was immensely tall, immensely fat, wearing a green dress and a coiffure that looked like it had been fashioned with a splitting axe."
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Rust was seeping into the soul of the community." December 4, 2008
Format:Hardcover
(4.5 stars) Part white and part aborigine, Emily Tempest has "a foot in both camps." As a child living with the aborigines at Moonlight Downs while her white father worked at the Moonlight cattle station, Emily was a happy member of the community until she was fourteen, when her natural curiosity and tempestuous nature led her to violate a strong community taboo. Immediately, she was sent off to boarding school in Adelaide, her best friend, and partner in the violation, an aborigine, facing a worse penalty within the community. After starting three degrees (including law) and finishing none, she traveled the world, eventually finding her way back "home" for the first time in twelve years, just as Lincoln Flinders, the father of her best friend and the leader of the community, is found murdered. There is no dearth of motives.

The aborigine community has recently had its ancestral lands restored by the Australian courts after whites had appropriated it for cattle grazing and development, and resentful whites have been trying to buy or lease it back. Racial tensions and cultural conflicts underlie intercommunity relationships, and some of the aborigines' most sacred sites have been deliberately destroyed by whites. Aborigine youth who have lived in Bluebush, the nearest community, no longer feel the ties to the land that their parents and ancestors have had, and the community's future is threatened. Emily Tempest is determined to find out who murdered Lincoln Flinders, and she is in a unique position to do so, but she also has her enemies, both inside and outside the aborigine community.

Australian author Adrian Hyland, who won the Ned Kelly Award for this atmospheric and dramatic first novel, creates a narrative that moves at warp speed, filled with action and excitement.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly original mystery from Australia September 1, 2008
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Moonlight Downs" is surely one of the more unusual mystery novels out there right now in that it is set in the wasteland of northern Australia, features a female sleuth who is half Aboriginal and half European and uses a lexicon of Australian English and Aboriginal expressions that will be completely unfamiliar to most non-Australian readers.

Author Adrian Hyland has fashioned a complex mystery story that does not sort itself until the final pages of the book. Meanwhile, protagonist Emily Tempest, travels many miles through the outback trying to find the murderer of an old family friend who was the revered leader of a small Aboriginal band trying to reestablish its traditional way of life in a wasteland oasis. The problems that Aboriginal people have living between European settlements and traditional encampments are well and sympathetically laid out as the story line uncoils.

The author thankfully provides a glossary of Aboriginal and Australian words and idioms at the outset of the book and be forewarned--you will have to access those references frequently until well into the book. This is an intelligent and interesting novel with a good mystery core that any reader of the genre will appreciate greatly.

Finally, kudos to SOHO Crime for continuing to delivery excellent international mysteries to the American market.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
"Given a Wantiya mother, a knockabout miner father and a Warlpuju foster mob, it wasn't exactly surprising that I often thought of geological formations as having lives of their own. I imagined them as enormous creatures, crawling through time..." That's Emily Tempest thinking to herself. She's a small, clever, confident and often headstrong young woman who is about to find herself hunted down by murderers in the bleak, dry Australian outback. To her sometimes confusion, she and those who know her usually think of her as a black woman misplaced in a white world or as a white woman misplaced in a black world. She's as much at home in both as she's not at home in either. When she decides to visit the extended family group she grew up with, who now have been given official title to their ancestral land, the Moonlight Downs, she finds herself at cross purposes with just about everyone she knows or meets. There are the people -- the Moonlight mob -- she ran with as a child while her father worked. They include probably the two most important people in her life...Lincoln Flinders, the aging leader of the Moonlight mob, and his daughter, Hazel. Then there are the whitefellers, especially those who center around Bluebush, the nearest town to Moonlight. Bluebush is one of the worst Australian outback towns you'll hope never to be stuck in...drunks, cast-offs, opportunists, manipulative government officials and up-from-the-bootstraps bullies. Some are pleasant enough, some aren't. Some are wealthy landowners, most are not.

When Lincoln Flinders is found dead, killed in a gruesome manner that might make some think the murderer is a blackfeller, Emily decides it couldn't have been that way.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars st Emily Tempest book - Moonlight Downs
Emily Tempest is a Half Aboriginal , half white girl coming back to her home after several years traveling to school and the world to find herself. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Faye
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting read
I found the book interesting but not great. I found the use of Australian slang confusing. And I really didn't take to Tempest all that much.
Published 11 months ago by Gail E Erickson
4.0 out of 5 stars Spending time in the Outback
 [Moonlight Downs] by [[Adrian Hyland]] is a mystery that takes place in Australia.  The main character is "half Aborigine and half white". Read more
Published 19 months ago by Buddha Baby
4.0 out of 5 stars I liked it a lot
I very much enjoyed learning about the cultural intersection of white and aboriginal people in the stark landscape of Australia. Read more
Published 20 months ago by Casimir
5.0 out of 5 stars Great detective story with a perceptive background of aborigine...
Excellent book! I really enjoyed the characters and the detective story, as well as the inside view of aboriginal life in the Northern Territory. Read more
Published 21 months ago by Chris Hoban
5.0 out of 5 stars Outback adventurting
A very well done book ... excellent dialogue and the imagery of the outback and the aboriginal peoples is marvelously done. Read more
Published on May 10, 2012 by Edwin J. O'Farrell
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible sense of place and people
I treasure a book that takes me into a new time, place, or culture and this one plunked me down in the Australian Outback with Emily Tempest and the Moonlight mob. Read more
Published on November 15, 2011 by Carolyn J. Rose
5.0 out of 5 stars Very obvious why this book won awards - Very special read
First Sentence: I parked my little white ute on the outskirts of the camp and sat there, looking out at the scatter of corrugated iron hovels. Read more
Published on November 4, 2011 by L. J. Roberts
1.0 out of 5 stars Gibberish--style very off-putting.
This mystery starts out by giving us a glossary of two dialects unfamiliar to most American readers: Aboriginal ( "kurlupartu") and Australian words we might not have heard before... Read more
Published on March 15, 2011 by Bangyaii
5.0 out of 5 stars Wow, wow...WOW!
Set in the outback of Australia, this is the first in a series featuring Emily Tempest, the 26-year-old daughter of a whitefeller miner and an Aboriginal woman. Read more
Published on May 4, 2010 by Cheryl A. Reynolds
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