The second novel to feature Byron Bay based investigative journalist Scout Davis sees the heroine on the trail of a man thought to have died 30 years previously. She is first contacted by Hermione Longfellow who claims that a man whose photograph appeared in that week’s newspaper was the same Mick O’Leary who had married her sister Nemony in 1983 and was thought to have drowned a few months later while sailing in Sydney Harbour during a freak storm. According to Hermione her sister has been in a deep depression since her husband’s death and she wants Scout to prove that far from being a grieving widow Nemony should be angry about O’Leary’s faked death and potential disappearance with the bulk of her inheritance.
The investigative thread of this book speeds along nicely and is full of suspense, especially the final quarter which sees Scout and her friend Daisy on the trail of their prey in Queensland’s gorgeous Whitsunday Islands. In what is something of a rarity for crime fiction without a murder in sight Groff doese a nice job of making the reader care about the Longfellow sisters and the impact of Mick O’Leary’s sudden appearance then disappearance in their lives and it’s not hard to share the characters’ desire to see the bad guy get his comeuppance. The fact that the entire book takes place against a backdrop of some fantastically depicted locations, especially Byron Bay is a bonus.
An equal amount of this novel’s space is taken up with Scout’s non-investigative activities which includes a secret life as a yarn bomber, a complicated love-life and a sister, four nephews and a brother-in-law who are in a bit of a pickle. Personally I found this all a bit too chick lit-y for my tastes, especially as every time she appeared we got a detailed description of Scout’s outfits (fashion and I are complete strangers), but I am positive a lot of readers are looking for exactly this kind of combination. Scout’s well-rounded home life offers most of the book’s funnier moments and her family, including her faithful feline companion Chairman Meow, and friends are nicely drawn characters.
I do think the book is too long at 360+ pages for what is not a terribly complicated story but the publishing world seems to have universally agreed that bigger is better some time during the last decade and at some point I’m just going to have to accept that I’m the lone voice who still believes that less is more. Overall this is a very readable, very Australian, lighter style crime novel that I’m sure will have a broad appeal.
GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS is the 7th novel I’ve read for this year’s Australian Women Writers challenge
Publisher: Pan Macmillan Australia 
Length: 369 pages
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