My rating: 4 of 5 stars
How can you make a story “gripping” when the outcome is well known? Somehow Stephen Orr manages to achieve this. Many Australians, especially Adelaideans, know about the Beaumont children. This book is loosely based on their story, with some significant changes, the most obvious being names and exact locations. Nevertheless, the incident on which the story is based is unmistakable to most Australians over the age of 40.
Orr recasts the story, from the point of view of the next door neighbour and best friend of the children, who is now adult, looking back on his childhood. The boy’s father also happens to be a police detective, which allows Orr to provide a full picture of the police investigation.
The book beautifully re-creates a suburban community in the 1960s. This is its strength really, and you learn as much about life in that small part of Adelaide as you do about the children themselves.
There are parallel threads running through the book: the family lives of the boy, of his neighbours, of the railway crossing operator, of the local chiropractor. Orr paints their lives with great warmth and insight.
It’s a very good book indeed: both as a gripping page turner, but also as a historical perspective on what may have been a turning point in Australian society – the point at which trust and community began to disappear.
My only criticism is that perhaps the book is a bit long. Then again, I was never tempted to skip over sections.