The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou

EXCERPT: Heavy footsteps were soon around her ears, hands on her hair pulling backwards, dragging her limp body further east. They were leaving the oval, heading for the copse of gum trees behind the scoreboard. Dry sheets of sharp bark clawed at her skin, leaving dark red whiplashes across her milky white back. The next sound was of her spine crunching against one of the thick trunks as she was moved into position and fixed with a thick roll of gaffer tape around her shoulders, breasts, torso, thighs, ankles.

She was left there for some time – several minutes. Ample opportunity for her to be found had it not been such a late hour or desolate part of town. She hung there, strung like a puppet. Something began to crawl up her leg.

ABOUT ‘THE STONING’: A small town in outback Australia wakes to a crime of medieval savagery.

A local schoolteacher is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion instantly falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high, between whites and the local indigenous community, between immigrants and the townies.

Still mourning the recent death of his father, Detective Sergeant George Manolis returns to his childhood hometown to investigate. Within minutes of his arrival, it’s clear that Cobb is not the same place he left. Once it thrived, but now it’s a poor and derelict dusthole, with the local police chief it deserves. And as Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism, and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his past begin to flicker to life.

MY THOUGHTS: Set in the fictional town of Cobb, somewhere in outback Australia, The Stoning is a richly atmospheric story of the brutal stoning to death of a young woman, a much loved and admired teacher in the community.

DS Georgios Manolis is sent out from ‘the city’ to oversee the investigation, the local police force of three being largely inept and mostly drunk, with the exception of Kate Kerr, the only female on the force. Even she carries a baseball bat in the boot of her car to ward off unwanted attention and even she, initially, resents Manolis’ intrusion.

Manolis, a man used to doing things by the book and following procedures, struggles with policing in this small town where there’s no chain of command and no recognition given to the need to preserve the scene of the crime or establish a chain of evidence.

The people are a mystery to him. Angry, resentful and bigoted, they seem content to blame Molly’s death on the inmates of the local refugee detention centre. After all, it’s their sort of crime. But for Manolis, there’s a few things that just don’t seem to add up.

As much as I loved this story, there were a few things that didn’t add up for me either. Molly must have had some friends amongst the townspeople. No mention is made of them, the question is never asked, and thus no one, other than the principal of the school where she worked, is interviewed about her.

Small towns like this thrive on gossip. That is never tapped. And believe me, the men gossip just as much as the women. Georgios could have done with spending a bit more time on a bar stool in the top pub, shouting a few rounds, with his ears open.

And speaking of women, where are they? Other than the dead Molly, Kate the copper, Ida the old gin soak and newspaper thief who found Molly’s body, and Vera from the holiday park, there are no women!

I would also have liked a better sense of place. Beyond the fact that we’re in the Australian outback, which is two-thirds of Australia, a bloody big place, we have no idea where we are.

But, beyond that, the writing is superb. Manolis portrays an impoverished and dying town, badly impacted by the detention centre meant to bring jobs and prosperity to the area, but which has instead brought crime and drugs and hostility.

I loved the underlying thread of Manolis’ family background that runs through this story. In the course of the investigation into Molly’s death, he learns more about his own family, and clears up a mystery from his childhood.

The ending to The Stoning was unexpected, but strangely satisfying.

I believe this to be the first in a series featuring Georgios Manolis. I will definitely be in line for the next.

⭐⭐⭐⭐.1

#TheStoning #NetGalley

I: @petepapathanasiou @quercusbooks

T: @peteplastic @QuercusBooks

#australianfiction #contemporaryfiction #crime #detectivefiction #murdermystery #thriller

THE AUTHOR: Peter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece in 1974 and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His debut book, a memoir, was published in 2019 as “Son of Mine” by Salt Publishing (UK) and “Little One” by Allen & Unwin (Australia). His debut novel, a work of crime fiction, was published in 2021 as “The Stoning” by MacLehose Press (UK) and Transit Lounge (Australia), and in 2022 by Polar Verlag (Germany). Peter’s writing has otherwise been published by The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Guardian UK, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Good Weekend, ABC and SBS. He holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from City, University of London; a Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences from The Australian National University (ANU); and a Bachelor of Laws from ANU specialising in criminal law. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thanks to Quercus Books via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of The Stoning for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com

This review is also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and Goodreads.com

Author: sandysbookaday

I love good quality chocolate. I love the ocean and love to be in, on or beside it. I read any and every where. I am a proud mum and Nana. I like wine, gin, Southern Comfort, a cold Heineken on a hot day. I am very versatile like that. I cross stitch, do jigsaws, garden, and work on a farm. I am an occasional scribbled. I have far too many books I want to read to ever find the time to die. I am an active member of Goodreads as Sandy *the world could end while I was reading and I would never notice* and review on Amazon under the name Sandyj21. My Goodreads reviews are automatically linked to my Facebook page. Groups I belong to and participate in on Goodreads include: The Mystery, Crime and Thriller Group; Mysteries and Crime Thrillers; Psychological Thrillers; Reading for Pleasure; Crime Detective Mystery Thrillers; English Mysteries; Dead Good Crime; Kindle English Mystery, All About Books and NZ Readers. April 2016 I made the Top 1% of Goodreads reviewers (As follows) Hello Sandy *The world could end while I was reading and I would never notice*, In our community of readers, you stand out in a notable way: You're one of the top 1% of reviewers on Goodreads! With every rave and every pan, with every excited GIF and every critical assessment, you've helped the Goodreads community get closer to a very important milestone – the 50 Million Reviews mark!

8 thoughts on “The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou”

  1. Wonderful review Sandy. This sounds so atmospheric. It is always nice to find a new author and series. Perhaps those things that caused niggles will be cleaned up in future books. 📚😀🧡

    Liked by 1 person

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