Tuesday, September 8, 2020


FOR REASONS OF THEIR OWN by Chris Stuart (xx, 2020)

Reviewed by Fran Hartley

Can the past ever be left behind? Ask a flawed detective, a former refugee and a government desperate to misuse a dead body to reshape Australia’s security policy.

Melbourne is a city on the brink, from arson fed bush fires, searing heatwaves and the potential threat of terrorism. Detective Inspector Robbie Gray, falling foul of Police bureaucracy, gets called to a body found lying in a rural swamp. When the nationality of the victim is revealed, ASIO take over her investigation and she is sidelined. 

Convinced they are misinterpreting the evidence, along with a disenfranchised policeman, she secretly digs for the truth and discovers an entirely different motive, one which transcends international borders and exposes corruption in the humanitarian world. When the killer is arrested, DI Robbie Gray realises that the past contains only hurt and pain and she asks herself whether in certain circumstances, murder may well be justified.

This book will appeal to readers over the age of eighteen who like a crime novel with an unusual slant. It is well written, easy to read and follow. The descriptions of the Melbourne districts are very good indeed. The characters come to life and you quickly feel that you know and sympathise with the dedicated Detective Inspector Robbie Gray, whose recent internal investigation is tarnished when evidence goes missing, leaving Robbie feeling aggrieved and frustrated.

Robbie is sent to observe, undercover, at an International Disaster Conference, a role she feels is below her capabilities, but doubt has been cast on her professional judgement. However, she is called to investigate the mysterious circumstances surrounding the discovery of a body in a rural swamp, north of Melbourne. Robbie is given a small team that includes Mac, an Aboriginal Police Officer, who has also suffered injustice in a disciplinary matter, which Robbie can empathise with.

Both Robbie and Mac have an admirable desire to search for the truth in what is, to them, clearly a murder. But when the nationality of the murder victim is revealed the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) take over the case, instructing Robbie and her team to “back off”. However, Robbie is convinced the ASIO are on the wrong tack and wants to continue her investigation, suspecting corruption and political manipulation.

Set in Melbourne during a stifling heat wave, drought and raging bush fires, DI Gray has to convince her superior to allow her team to continue to investigate this murder with no apparent motive and, as Robbie suspects, the ASIO wrongly focusing on the murder as a terrorist orientated incident in order to reshape the Australian security policy.

Robbie and her team are challenged by heartbreaking humanitarian issues with the eventual outcome making the reader think deeply about the social injustices that are still happening in our world.

A thoroughly good read, making me want to look forward to another DI Robbie Gray story.

This review was first published in FlaxFlower reviews, which focuses on in-depth reviews of New Zealand books of all kinds, and is reprinted here with the kind permission of Flaxflower founder and editor Bronwyn Elsmore. 

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