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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

SOMEBODY’S CRYING By Maureen McCarthy. Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 2008.

Three years ago, forty-something mother and mature-age student Lillian Wishart was murdered in her home in the Victorian coastal town of Warrnambool. Jonty van der Weihl,her nephew, was arrested for the murder, but released after three months for lack of evidence. Now Jonty is back, and so are his former best friend, Tom, and Lillian’s daughter Alice. Jonty has returned from studies in Sydney, Tom is doing a work placement for his photography course and Alice has taken time off from university to live with her stroppy grandmother and work for Tom’s father, the lawyer who got Jonty off the charges.

Tom still believes Jonty did it, as does Alice. But Tom is feeling bad about having abandoned his friend when he was needed. After all, there’s no proof. Alice would like to believe he didn’t do it, as he is the closest thing she had to a brother. Her father is off in Darwin with his girlfriend and she has only her grandmother and Jonty now.

But nobody knows - including Jonty, who doesn’t remember much about that night. And when Jonty’s horrible father, Jed, returns and confesses to the murder, it seems as if everything is now sorted out ... or is it?

Flashbacks show the build-up to the murder. The reader can decide what to think - but the mystery isn’t all. The novel is more about how the past has affected those left behind. When Tom tells Alice, at one point, that it’s all in the past and over, she lets him know in no uncertain terms that it isn’t. Everyone in the novel needs closure.

Maureen McCarthy is one of Australia’s best mainstream writers for young adults. In the end, it is the characters who matter - and it isn’t only the young ones who are important. Their parents also count and you can feel for them as well as the young protagonists.

Another McCarthy book bound to become a classic.

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