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Still

Darwin, Summer, 1963.

The humidity sat heavy and thick over the town as Senior Constable Ned Potter looked down at a body that had been dragged from the shallow marshland. He didn't need a coroner to tell him this was a bad death. He didn't know then that this was only the first. Or that he was about to risk everything looking for answers.

Late one night, Charlotte Clark drove the long way home, thinking about how stuck she felt, a 23-year-old housewife, married to a cowboy who wasn't who she thought he was. The days ahead felt suffocating, living in a town where she was supposed to keep herself nice and wait for her husband to get home from the pub. Charlotte stopped the car, stepped out to breathe in the night air and looked out over the water to the tangled mangroves. She never heard a sound before the hand was around her mouth.

Both Charlotte and Ned are about to learn that the world they live in is full of secrets and that it takes courage to fight for what is right. But there are people who will do anything to protect themselves and sometimes courage is not enough to keep you safe.

STILL is an evocative, page-turning thriller from a brilliant Australian writer. If you loved THE DRY and SCRUBLANDS, you will love STILL.
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PRODUCT DETAILS

  • Title: Still
  • Author: Matt Nable
  • Edition: 1
  • Publisher: Hachette Australia
  • ISBN: 9780733644740
  • Format: PaperBack
  • Category: General Fiction
  • Publication Date: 26/05/2021
  • Pages: 336

RATINGS & REVIEW

28/05/2021 11:32:31 AM - Sarah
Gritty and compelling Aussie Noir
Still is an engrossing and frequently confronting read, exploring the theme of police and government corruption in Darwin, the capital of Australia's Northern Territory, during the early 1960s. The book opens with the dramatic scene of an underworld execution in a dark mangrove swamp not far outside Darwin. Our flawed hero, Senior Constable Ned Potter, is the first representative of NT Police to come across the scene, where local fishermen have discovered the decomposing body of Ernie Clay. Clay was an indigenous man, who had survived a fractured childhood in Queensland, as a member of Australia's "Stolen Generation". Potter is quickly side lined from the case by his crooked and racist superior, Senior Sergeant Joe Riley, but visits Clay's widow, a white woman, to express his condolences. She's afraid to say any more, but makes the tantalising comment, "They killed him because he saw." For the remainder of the book, we follow Potter's often thwarted efforts to investigate and lift the veil of police corruption and political interference from Darwin's ambitious Mayor, Desmond Landry, as further brutal killings occur and Potter is treated as a pariah by his colleagues. Meanwhile, Charlotte, wife of NT Fire & Rescue officer Bobby Clark, is facing her own struggles. Her husband is a boorish man, who's in the thick of the conspiracy involving Riley and Landry. She unwittingly becomes drawn into the heart of the drama when she rescues a wounded indigenous man not far from the swamp where Ernie Clay was found weeks earlier. She secretly nurses him back to health, as an understanding grows between them. The picture Matt Nable paints of 1960s Darwin, with its relentless humidity, overt racism, frequent domestic abuse and uncontrolled drinking, is not pretty. Nevertheless, there are passages of stunningly evocative prose, as Nable details such apparently mundane subjects as an aged Land Rover, the smell of a pub during wet season, or the process Charlotte follows when fishing for whiting from the beach. The stillness to which the title refers, is repeatedly conjured in the view from the coast towards the Timor Sea, which both Ned and Charlotte find restorative in the moments between oncoming storm fronts, both literal and figurative. The two characters from whose perspectives the intertwined narrative unfolds, Ned and Charlotte, are not unexpectedly those who are best developed and the reader's sympathy for both grows over the course of the novel. Ned is particularly compelling as a character - he regularly gets so drunk after work that his relationship with his wife Bonnie and baby daughter are threatened, and yet his commitment to finding justice and truth are unwavering. He seems to be some years (decades?) ahead of his colleagues when it comes to matters of systemic racism and treatment of victims and their families. Meanwhile, Charlotte is a woman who is feeling dissatisfied in her marriage prior to the events detailed in the novel. She's tied to Darwin by her dying father, but yearns for a more fulfilling life. I found Still a stimulating read, with occasional flashes of brilliance, but perhaps let down a little by several unexplained plot incongruities and a rather abrupt and overly-neat ending. Nevertheless, readers who are willing to suspend their disbelief and go along for the ride will find this a worthwhile excursion into top-end noir, with plenty of character interest and an action-packed storyline. My thanks to the author, Matt Nable, publisher Hachette Australia and NetGalley, for the opportunity to read and review this title.
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15/06/2021 4:01:18 PM - Marianne
An impressive read.
Still is the fourth novel by Australian actor, screenwriter and author, Matt Nable. When the body of half-caste Aboriginal man, Ernie Clay is found at the edge of a swamp, as first policeman on the scene, Senior Constable Ned Potter is eager to start an investigation. His Senior Sergeant, though, assures Ned that he will handle it. When Ned speaks to the widow, she mutters that Ernie was killed for what he saw, but refuses to elaborate. And then, despite coroner’s findings to the contrary, Senior Sergeant Riley tells Ned it will probably be ruled a suicide: welcome to Darwin in 1993. Soon after this, following a close encounter between his vehicle and a feral pig, Ned stumbles on two more bodies in shallow graves. One, he recognises immediately, and this time, the national press flock to Darwin, making it more difficult for his superiors to sweep under the carpet. The ultimatum that Ned is issued makes him very uncomfortable: one of his guiding principles is to follow through. He learns, from what he believes to be subtle investigation, that things said or overheard marked them as victims. Subsequently, overt threats to his wife and child are meant to stop his covert inquiries: will he comply? Charlotte Clark finds herself in a loveless (on her part) marriage, but her options for a fulfilled life in Cairns are limited. Leaving Bobby Clark would not be a simple matter. Perhaps it’s a distraction from her plight that leads her to help, and hide, a badly beaten fugitive, although aiding Michael Roberts immediately strikes her as the right thing to do. She instinctively keeps her regular attendance to offer him food and medical care from Bobby, aware he wouldn’t approve, and feeling a little guilty about her attraction to Michael, when Bobby has never really given her any reason to complain. But perhaps that is just the side of him that he shows her… Nable gives the reader a convincing tale with plenty of intrigue, quite a bit of violence and a generous serve of expletives. And it wouldn’t be the Territory in 1963 without some blatant racism and sexism, corrupt police and politicians, a good deal of fishing, a big old croc (named Marilyn, in this case), and lots of beer drinking. His male lead is flawed: naïve, a bit arrogant and, initially, rather too fond of drinking beer to escape his worries. The other males are perhaps a tiny bit stereotypical Territory, but still authentic enough to accept. His portrayal of the 1960’s wife, expected to fulfil a role with few rights and without any ambition of her own, is credible. Nable easily evokes the era although there are a few anachronisms that will stand out to readers of a certain vintage. His rendition of the setting is perfect: the hear and humidity are palpable. An impressive read. This unbiased review is from an uncorrected proof copy provided by NetGalley and Hachette Australia.
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