Adrian Hyland’s first novel, Diamond Dove, is a tale of the Australian outback. The descriptions and atmosphere are so compelling that from page 1 the reader is jettisoned into the heat, the dry dust, the rocks, and the impoverished townships and itinerant camps of the Northern Territories, a place where Alice Springs seems as sophisticated, and indeed remote, as Paris or Milan. As soon as I started reading, I was absorbed in the author’s world. The narrator is a young, motherless, half-white, half-Aboriginal woman; her lack of identity with either culture forms the basis of the book, as she is more of an observer than a member of any of the social groups or places so evocatively described. Emily Tempest grew up in a small mining community, running wild with the Aboriginal children. As a young woman, she went to university and started but did not complete three degree courses. At the start of the book, she returns to an Aboriginal community of her youth, but before too many pages have been turned, someone is murdered.
The rest of the book is about Emily’s persistent attempt to find out who did it: whether the chief suspect, Blackie, or one of the many other characters who pass temporarily through the pages. The murder plot is the least successful part of this book: there are too many people who appear and disappear before they are properly fixed in the reader’s mind. The book’s enormous strength, however, is the sense of the communities and the land: how people live, eking out a life on the edges of the desert, their love for and knowledge of the rocks, the flora and fauna, and the easygoing yet shifting relationships between them. Emily is a charming and tenacious heroine: one never doubts she will get to the bottom of the mystery, but the telling of her story is more satisfying than the "who and why dunnit".