Title: The Fallback
Author: D.L. Hicks
Publisher: Pantera Press
Published: 31st May 2022
Synopsis: Deep down, there’s something we’d all kill for.
I know I would. I know I have. I know I will.
Recovering addict Eric Johnstone is turning his life around until one small moment sends him down a dark path. Just months after he takes a job at the retirement village in Point Imlay, the ebbing tide reveals Eric’s body, trussed to the town’s oyster beds.
When Senior Detective John Darken’s business card is discovered in the dead man’s pocket, J.D. transfers to Point Imlay to help with the investigation. But J.D.’s life is in shambles: his job is precarious, his marriage is on the rocks, and his past haunts him constantly.
Two men whose lives are entwined – but how does one end up dead?
Together, J.D. and homicide detective Emma Capsteen – another unwelcome new face in the sleepy seaside town – work to unravel the final days of Eric’s life. But instead of answers, all they uncover are more questions. Why does a local bikie have free reign? What are the residents at Seascape Gardens retirement village hiding? And, in a town whose beating heart is community, why isn’t anyone prepared to tell the truth?
When Eric Johnstone is found dead in the oyster beds of Port Imlay, the local cops call in two out of town detectives: Senior Detective John ‘J.D.’ Darken, and homicide detective Emma Capsteen, especially when it transpires that Eric and J.D. once knew each other. Yet even in a quiet, coastal town, nearly everyone has their secrets, and J.D. and Emma are determined to get to the bottom of what really happened – but in a town like this, who can you really trust, and who is telling the truth?
The story focuses on a murder, and goes between the present third person investigation, and a first-person perspective in the lead-up the murder – in Eric Johnstone’s voice – and as we go back and forth, clues are dropped, and suspects lined up – no single person is a coincidence. Their presence always has a reason and allows the pieces of the mystery to be drip-fed to the reader, so that they do not solve the crime too quickly.
Even background characters like Grace Kane shine through – I wanted to see more of her, and see her be more than what some of the other characters assumed her to be, as I felt like she had a powerful role, much like Emma Capsteen. Together, these two characters would make an engaging novel if they were to be partnered up, and I think they would also create a very interesting story, alongside some of the other characters. These two characters were my favourites, because they stood out to me, and I kept wishing J.D. and others had more interactions with them throughout the novel.
As a police officer, D.L. Hicks has used his experience and knowledge to craft the novel, whilst also relying on well-trodden tropes and character archetypes to tell the story – some of which I feel could have been executed in a more original way, yet somehow they still work, and overall the story is compelling, and draws the reader into the story and what is going on in Port Imlay as it careens towards an ending that made me wonder if there is a sequel in the works, and if we’ll get to see more of Emma and Grace with J.D. in the next novel, as their characters had a lot of promise and I would love to see more of them.