Murder Down Under, and a bit ago

My last, “just sit down and read it”, mystery of the winter break is Robin Adair’s, “Death and the Running Patterer: A Curious Murder Mystery”. (2009) Nicodemus Dunne is a paroled convict in Sydney, Australia in 1828. He was transported for a very minor (at least by our standards) offense and shipped off to the penal colony. He had been a police officer in London before being shipped off and, after his parole, took up the job of patterer. He makes his living reading the news to those who can’t read for themselves or for those who simply want a digest of the news without all the bother of having to read the whole paper.
He is drawn into the investigation of a murder by the superintendent of the police, Francis de Rossi (a historic figure in colonial Sydney.) de Rossi knows Dunne and knows his police work and requisitions his assistance. Dunne gets pulled into a series of murders of soldiers, each of which is accompanied and connected by strange clues. His employment has enabled him to meet many of the characters inhabiting Sydney and he gets assistance from numerous citizens, free and convict. He ultimately reveals the killer (of course) but not until after having taken us on a tour of very old Sydney.
Adair is, I believe, a journalist, and one with a a good sense of humor. He knows Sydney and he knows old Sydney. He has a good understanding of the transportation/convict system and he does a good job bringing his characters to life. He has a dry sense of humor and occasionally manages to insert a modern cultural reference into Nicodemus Dunne’s 19th century Australia. The references don’t jar you out of the moment, they make sense and hopefully you’ll find them as amusing as I did. Adair mixes real characters and events with the fictional and manages to make the blend seamless, at least to someone like me (with only a moderate knowledge of Australian history.)
In a bit of serendipity, synchronicity (?), the day I started reading this was the day the New York Times did an article on finding Sydney’s convict past in its modern streets. I found congruence between the NYT article and the book and it created a connection between the then and now that I may not have developed otherwise.
I enjoyed this book. I was able to figure out whodunit fairly early on but if I let that stop me I’d never read another mystery again. Adair has a second book coming out in February, “Ghost of Waterloo”, another Running Patterer book. I’m looking forward to it.
I read this book in Kindle format on my iPad


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