Title: The Diggers Rest Hotel
Author: Geoffrey McGeachin
Series: Charlie Berlin #01
Audiobook length: 8 hrs 18 min
Release Date: October 01, 2010
Publisher: Bolinda Audio
Source: personal copy
In 1947, two years after witnessing the death of a young Jewish woman in Poland, Charlie Berlin has rejoined the police force a different man. Sent to investigate a spate of robberies in rural Victoria, he soon discovers that World War II has changed even the most ordinary of places and people.
When Berlin travels to Albury-Wodonga to track down the gang behind the robberies, he suspects he’s a problem cop being set up to fail. Taking a room at the Diggers Rest Hotel in Wodonga, he sets about solving a case that no one else can – with the help of feisty, ambitious journalist Rebecca Green and rookie constable Rob Roberts, the only cop in town he can trust. Then the decapitated body of a young girl turns up in a back alley, and Berlin’s investigations lead him ever further through layers of small-town fears, secrets and despair.
The first Charlie Berlin mystery takes us into a world of secret alliances and loyalties – and a society dealing with the effects of a war that changed men forever.
It took me a little while to get into this audio book, but I think it was just because I was unaccustomed to the Australian accent and lingo. Once I adjusted, I easily became absorbed in the story.
Charlie is a little rough around the edges, but I grew to like him. He was obviously damaged by his wartime experiences, but he was starting to work his way through it. In many ways, he seemed much older than his 29 years. I also liked Rebecca, who I could completely picture in my mind, Hepburn-esque in her boldness and independence. She was a good match to Charlie. I also liked Charlie’s escort, Roberts. Fresh-faced, but not nearly as naive as he appeared.
As far as the mystery is concerned, I had a hard time getting really invested in the bank robberies. But the murder was another matter. It was that mystery that really drove the rest of the book, and the outcome of that investigation was unexpected — the robberies, not so much. More than the mysteries, this book has a lot to do with the effects of World War II on soldiers and the ones that were left behind. It was interesting for me to see the war from another country’s perspective. I’d never thought much about Australia’s role in the war, even considering its proximity to Japan.
I certainly wouldn’t mind if other books in this series happened to cross my path.
- “Add in a compelling storyline of Berlin investigating a set of payroll robberies by an armed gang and you have a very nice mix – a strong sense of place and historical and social contextualisation, wonderful characterisation, and interesting plot, told through engaging prose.” — The View From the Blue House
- “McGeachin has taken care with the historical detail and it gives the novel a great feeling of authenticity. (You get the feeling that McGeachin is describing a world he knows well.)” — Mysteries in Paradise
- “With down-to-earth, very believable characters and a strong, enveloping sense of place and time THE DIGGERS REST HOTEL is a top notch work of historical crime fiction.” — Fair Dinkum Crime