“The Unbelieved” by Vikki Petraitis – Review
Genre: Fiction: Crime/Thriller
Senior Detective Antigone Pollard, disheartened by the failure of the justice system to support a victim of sexual assault, has left Melbourne and transferred to the station in her hometown of Deception Bay. She has barely started her new role when she becomes the target of a sexual predator, who attempts (but fails) to spike her drink at a local bar. Pollard arrests the perpetrator, who is promptly released on bail by the local Magistrate.
Pollard, with the assistance of her partner Wozza, uncovers similarities between hers and an alarming number of sexual assaults in the district. The bulk of the cases have received minimal police attention as the victims have not been believed. The blame has been firmly placed on the victims; being either too drunk, provocative or deliberately lying to cover up their own disgraceful behaviour and embarrassment. Pollard is forced to operate without the support of her immediate supervisor, and her investigation is dogged by the resentment of many senior male residents of the town. Sadly, it takes the assault of one of the daughters of a prominent member of the community, to spark real interest in the case.
Antigone is a strong and amazingly resilient character. Her disappointment, pain and fear are beautifully expressed. She finds the strength to carry on, despite the obstacles, through her belief in justice, the support of her friend and former supervisor, her need to support and nurture the women of the wider community, and most importantly, the love of her dog, Waffles. She is also trying to adjust to a single life, having ending her long-term relationship with a former colleague, Daniel, who failed to understand and support her dedication to the cause of a victim. It is wonderful to take this journey with a realistically flawed woman.
But it is not just Antigone, all of the characters are believable, some likeable and many relatable. I suspect that many readers will have met and been on the receiving end of the unwelcome sexual attention, snide remarks, and general disdain of insecure, small-minded men in their careers and/or lives. Each character, good, bad, and in-between adds realistic colour to the narrative.
The regional, coastal down is described brilliantly. You can feel, smell and hear the sounds of the bay, the atmosphere of the local drinking establishments and the remoteness of the residential locations.
This gripping crime novel will keep you reading. The plot flows and twists at a rapid pace. You won’t want to put this one down. Petraitis’ experience as a true crime author adds an easy feeling of reality to the story. The descriptions of some members of the Police Force’s responses to reports of sexual assault, domestic violence, and general attitudes to women on the Force, ring true and smack of real-life accounts. The depth of feeling expressed in the writing shocks, upsets and engages the reader.
To say that “The Unbelieved” by Vikki Petraitis is an amazing debut fiction crime novel is an understatement. If you enjoy rural noir, and authors like Emma Viskic, Jane Harper, Garry Disher and Karina Kilmore, you will love “The Unbelieved”.
I hope this will be the first of many novels from this author.
I received a free copy of this book through Sisters in Crime – Australia, in exchange for a fair and honest review.