Alphabet in crime fiction: A Certain Malice by Felicity Young

Y  My contribution to the crime-fiction alphabet this week is a review of A Certain Malice, by Felicity Young, which I read last week. 

Sergeant Cam Fraser and his teenage daughter Ruby have moved from Sydney to start a new life in Western Australia after a disaster devastated their family. Cam is in charge of a small-town police station consisting of the previous senior cop, Vince, who is not only unpleasant but possibly corrupt, and three relatively inexperienced staff, including one, Leanne, only a few weeks out of police academy.  The team has to cover a large area where the risk of bush fires is always present and the nearest town is a day’s drive away.

As the book opens, Cam is called out to a fire in the scrub grounds of an expensive girls’ school. Two teachers have reported a fire, so Vince and the local fire fighters have attended the scene. After they’ve put the fire out, one of the teachers discovers a charred body behind a tree stump. Despite Vince’s sneers, Cam calls out the scene of crimes officers. Soon, his suspicions are confirmed: the death was not caused by fire, but by drowning.

Cam’s investigation is a whirlwind of confusion, as both of the teachers who reported the fire seem to go out of their way to tease him and obscure the truth. The headmistress Certain malice  of the school seems nervous and unstable, and her husband definitely has something to hide. As far as the community is concerned, Cam is very much an outsider in the local hard-drinking, macho world he’s now joined– not only this but he has to cope with his very rebellious and resentful daughter.

I really like the way that the strands of evidence get more and more varied as Cam discovers more facts about everyone – facts that seem to him to add to the confusion rather than to narrow down who was responsible for the fire and the murder.  Cam’s past and his troubled relationship with Ruby add an interesting level of emotion to the narrative, as well as his possible interest in one of the teachers at the school. The author has a confident writing style, and ties together all the various aspects of her plot in a convincing, if slightly melodramatic way, at the end. 

This novel was first written in 2005, published by the independent house Creme de la Crime. Since then,  Felicity Young has written three novels featuring Detective Sergeant Stevie Hooper, so A Certain Malice may be her only novel so far to feature Cam Fraser. The author was born in Germany, went to school in the UK, and has lived in Western Australia since 1976.

Author website  

Read another review of A Certain Malice at Reviewing the Evidence (review by Denise Pickles) 

Bernadette’s review of An Easeful Death, the first Stevie Hooper novel, at Reactions to Reading.   

Kerrie Smith’s Euro Crime review of Harum Scarum, the second Stevie Hooper novel.

Kerrie has written about Felicity Young as her contribution to Y in the crime-fiction alphabet (coincidentally).

Crime Fiction alphabet series at Petrona.

Mysteries in Paradise, home of the crime fiction alphabet. Visit this link if you would like to participate.

5 thoughts on “Alphabet in crime fiction: A Certain Malice by Felicity Young

  1. I am beginning to think of ‘The Ending Syndrome’ as a real presence in my life. Glad you liked this one as I did too. From memory Felicity is not able to re-use the Cam character due to ‘issues’ with that publisher (we ‘spoke’ about it on the Oz Mystery Readers group a while back so I’m a bit sketchy on details now but she did seem a tad miffed). I did wonder what happened to Cam and his daughter – off in that limbo land that all such characters hang out in I suppose.

  2. interesting info, thanks Bernadette.
    I thought the melodramatic ending more disappointing than usual in this particular book, as the plot was impressively tight and multi-faceted – so the melodrama wasn’t needed. Oh well, a pity that authors or publishers seem to think a “car crash” is necessary.
    (I use “car crash” as a generic term because that is what always happens in tv detective series. Ruth Rendell and P D James in their recent excellent interview said they don’t take any notice of the tv versions of their books, but the programme makers always put a car crash in. I know what they mean!)

  3. Maxine – Terrific and informative review, as always. I have to agree with you about the whole melodrama thing. A poorly-written novel isn’t really improved by melodrama, and a well-written one doesn’t need and can fall flat because of it. I’m glad you pointed that out; I think too many authors (or editors, or someone) think that people won’t enjoy novels without that cliched “car chase.”

  4. With regard to the ´car crash´ I think it is pretty difficult to sell crime fiction without it – unless you are called Rendell or James. (I might change my name to D. James – Jakob is James anyway, and do you think anyone would notice the difference? ;D)
    Felicity Young sounds good, and I have also succeeded in coming up with a tiny Y post but I fear next week. I may have to resort to Zen Buddhism or something like it.

  5. Dorte – You will have no problem for next week. You can write one of your delicious flash fiction stories about, hm…..poisoned zinnias or something. If anyone has the creativity, you do.

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