An investigative journalist haunted by her past scrutinises the exorbitant number of injuries and deaths of Grange Industry personnel at the Port of Melbourne in Karina Kilmore’s debut crime novel. But despite some compelling subject matter — big business clashing with the unions, the changing face of journalism, the government’s infringement on the public’s right to know — Where The Truth Lies is a low octane mystery laced with interesting elements that never quite mesh into an intoxicating page-turner, and frequently upends its own dramatic potential.
Take its main character, Chrissie O’Brian, a pill-popping, alcoholic journalist with The Argus, who is desperate to prove herself in the patriarchal newsroom, and desperate to escape her tragic past, for which she has assumed all blame. It would make sense (to me, at least; but who am I?) to prolong the the revelation of why she left New Zealand for Melbourne; build tension, make the reader question the veracity of O’Brian; yes, we want her to uncover the truth behind the deaths at Port of Melbourne, but what is she guilty of? Instead the events from her past are described in a simple flashback, stifling its gravitas.
Kilmore provides column-inches of background expertise on the harsh reality of the newspaper business and the Australian media landscape — she has 25 years of experience under her belt, so she has walked the walk — and the novel ticks along nicely during these moments; in fact, I’d love to sit in these scenes for longer, have the focus on breaking a story, pushing it through internal bureaucracy and dealing with government heavy-handedness. But these insights can’t buoy a plot that never really shifts out of neutral. My hope is that with the introduction of her lead out of the way, Kilmore’s sophomore novel leans into the aspects that sparkled here.
Pub: Simon & Schuster Australia