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The Quiet People by Paul Cleave


Every time I read a new Paul Cleave book, I think it’s his best yet. I don’t know how he keeps raising the bar so high, but The Quiet People is now my favourite of all his novels – it is outstanding.


Cameron and Lisa Murdoch are husband and wife crime writers, raising their young son Zach. They are successful novelists, travelling the world and earning good money from their numerous books. They often joke at writers’ festivals that they would be ideally placed to plan the perfect murder in real life and get away with it because they are crime writers, and know how to plot them.


But then their son Zach goes missing in confusing circumstances. At first, it seems he has run away after having a meltdown the day before and going to bed in a sulk. But then it seems like a stranger might have abducted him, and there are grave concerns for his safety. Cameron and Lisa are distraught as the police investigate and try to find their missing son. But then suspicion turns on the parents, and suddenly their jokes about getting away with murder are seen in a sinister new light. What if they weren’t joking? What if they really have done away with their son? It turns out their latest books weren’t doing so well, so the publicity would help their careers and book sales. And Zach was a difficult child by anyone standards, so could that be another motive for his disappearance and possible murder?


The public are fascinated by this mystery, and it’s not long before hundreds of people are camped outside their house wanting the crime writers’ blood, while online, the trolls troll and the death threats roll in. The mood is increasingly ugly and angry.

The book is written from the point of view of crime writer and anguished parent, Cameron, who is angry and increasingly unstable and violent, and Detective Inspector Rebecca Kent, who is investigating the case with the help of a new police partner. It’s a very effective way to tell the story and ramp up the tension, bouncing back and forth between these two viewpoints like a riveting game of tennis, keeping readers on their toes.


The Quiet People has to be the best crime novel I’ve read in years – and I’ve read many. The characters are well-drawn, and the plotline is superbly crafted.


My only complaint? I lost a Saturday afternoon of my life when I was supposed to be doing other things after making the mistake of reading the first few chapters. That was the point I was a goner, as I couldn’t put the book down. I just had to addictively keep turning the pages until the brilliant ending and collapse back on the sofa in relief that I’d got the end, while all the while wanting to prolong the reading experience.


Reviewer: Karen McMillan

Upstart Press, RRP $37.99


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