Given the origin, perhaps it’s a mystery dust storm rather than a crime wave, but regardless we’re certainly seeing a fair few high-quality mysteries set in rural Australia coming out in recent years. Debutant Richard Anderson brings something a little different than his peers: not only is he a second-generation cattle farmer himself, but his fascinating tale doesn’t center on a murder mystery. Instead, Retribution is powered by a variety of simmering tensions and nefarious deeds in a farming community.
The title has a double meaning: motivation for some of the characters and the name of a prized horse whose theft serves as a little bit of a MacGuffin for all that unfolds. Anderson populates his tale with an eclectic group of small-town characters, who ring very true despite their foibles and quirks.
The quartet of characters at the heart of the tale are an interesting grouping: a horse-loving rustler with close ties to the land, a protester-for-hire who enjoys creating chaos and isn’t what he seems, a middle-aged woman who's gone from political powerhouse to pariah, and a young woman who wants more—though she's just not quite sure what. Each feels very real and rounded, growing in depth over the course of the novel, and the interactions between them and others aren't typical or clichéd.
Anderson brings rural Australia to vivid life on the page, showcasing the community and the conflict, the mix of personalities and perspectives on a variety of issues. There’s a strong sense of authenticity among the drama. Retribution is an unusual rural mystery, but a fascinating and well-written one.