Review Blog

Apr 05 2018

The power game by Meg and Tom Keneally

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Monsarrat series, book 3. Vintage Books, 2018. ISBN 9780857989420
(Age: Senior secondary-Adult) Highly recommended. Themes: Australian history. Convicts. Van Diemen's Land. Maria Island. Monsarrat and Mrs Mulrooney are sent to Maria Island, off Van Diemen's Land, to investigate the murder of Harefield, the bosun who brings supplies to the island from Van Diemen's Land. The situation is political as the main suspect, Thomas Power, an Irish baronet, convicted of treason against the Crown and sent to Van Diemen's Land rather than being made a martyr through his execution, is seen as a convenient target by the authorities. Harefield is one of the few free men not under the direct control of the island's Commandant, and has made enemies through his illicit trade in rum and information.
Mulrooney and Monsarrat are at a disadvantage because of their convict pasts which have not been revealed to the Commandant. This means that they must lie about their respective backgrounds, making them vulnerable, especially as information is used to blackmail and intimidate in this isolated place.
The free community on the island is very small and the gathering of information by our two investigators proves very difficult, especially when the Commandant, his wife and her brother are not particularly cooperative. Power has enjoyed a number of freedoms including dining at the Commandant's house, but rumours circulated by Harefield have meant that Power is now confined and under house arrest, though still enjoying more privileges than his fellow convicts.
It is when Monsarrat foils an escape attempt by Power that he begins to see how Harefield's murder and Power's attempted escape are linked. Those who enjoyed the first two books in this excellent series, The soldier's curse, and The unmourned, will also find this a most satisfying outing for the Keneallys' two protagonists, Mulrooney and Monsarrat.
The settlement on Maria Island was initially set up for convicts who were not as much bother as many sent to Van Diemen's Land, but the place still felt isolated and entirely dependent on supplies sent from Van Diemen's Land when the weather was good enough to allow ships to land. Each of the three novels showcases a place most significant in Australia's convict past: Port Macquarie, Parramatta and now Maria Island, bringing a fresh view of the place and its inhabitants as they forge a new life in Australia. The series is not only a wonderful crime series but its historical background is mesmerising.
Mark Knight

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