Ash Island by Barry Maitland is a quick paced mystery, set in Sydney in contemporary times. It is the second book in the Belltree trilogy.
I was looking forward to the read, after reading only one other Maitland, Silvermeadow. That novel is an intriguing tale about the inner workings of the architecture of a modern shopping complex. That is, how the hidden spaces could create the perfect concealment for crime. Ash Island left me disappointed. Not all mystery readers would agree, but I feel that Maitland is now so sparse in his writing that the flavour and enjoyment of the read is hampered. Ash Island is a tightly written, masculine, forward moving plot driven read.
What I desire in my reading for leisure are fully developed characters. I want to feel the damp, smell the mould, savour the characterisation of strong or flawed players, enjoy rich description of weather, landscape, furnishings. Literally journey along, thus escaping my reality for a literal “walk in the park-jungle-alley-foreign” destination.
Reading Ash Island was more like reading a police report on events with very slight deviation into a more humanistic foray.
I wonder if Maitland is just fed up with writing and is cranking out the words. This book has the feel of a tired author, earning his living without the joy that is obviously evident in another aging, male author, James Lee Burke. I absolutely declare my bias for gentler, more artistic writing. Maybe I missed something in my earlier reading of Maitland (which I enjoyed), but I will definitely not be reading any of his newer publications.
Ash Island is an excellent read for devoted Maitland fans, who like terse tight moving along action.
Member of the SMSA Mystery & Crime Reading Group