Review Blog

May 08 2019

Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina

cover image

Allen and Unwin, 2018. ISBN: 9781760631628.
(Age: 16+) Highly recommended. Themes: Crime, Thriller, Aboriginal themes, Stolen generation. When detective Michael Teller is brought to a small country town to investigate a fire at a local children's home, he brings with him his daughter, Beth, killed in a car accident several years before. Both have serious problems to deal with and these are resolved as this wonderfully evocative crime thriller unfolds. Beth cannot leave her father, knowing he has been unable to contend with her death and unable to reach out to his dead wife's family, one that had taken him in as their son. Beth knows from her aunties that her mother is waiting for her on the other side, but she cannot leave while her father is grieving.
When a witness is questioned at the local hospital, Beth is startled that Isobel Catching can see her and as Beth narrates the journey of the investigation, the two become friends. They share an Aboriginal background that supports and nurtures their understanding of what has transpired. The spirituality shared by the girls is wonderfully evoked, giving them a deep inner strength inherited from their women forebears and it is this understanding that permeates the story.
But things have happened in this town in the past which have been covered up, Aboriginal people from the community were not listened to as children were taken away. When Teller discovers the remains of a young girl who disappeared more than twenty years ago, he solves a problem for the constable in the town, a school friend of the girl who disappeared. But this discovery leads to others. The grieving detective questions Catching who gives elusive answers, outlining some of the injustices doled out to her people from colonial times.
The conspiracy at the children's home involved people in the town, police who didn't take the girl's disappearance seriously, or because they were friends of the house owner, deliberately took things slowly, leaving children even more vulnerable.
The almost poetic lines from Catching outline her suffering, but readers will take pause at the strength of her character, her resolve in a situation that although she cannot change, she can lead the detective to the place where the mystery will be solved. At the same time she is able to help him accept his daughter's death and Beth is finally able to leave her father and join her mother.
This is a great read, full of women showing strength in the most dire of circumstances: the aunties, mothers and daughters shining through with courage and compassion, their words and stories telling the reader about the injustices of the past, with the story ending on a positive note offering hope for the future.
Ambelin Kwaymullina and Ezekiel Kwaymullina are sibling authors who are Palyku from the Pilbara region, North Western Australia. This novel is their first joint effort writing a young adult fiction and hopefully one of many. They have woven an absorbing and realistic crime thriller around the storytelling, magic and poetry of the women in their tale. Scroll for teacher's notes.
Fran Knight

Archived Blog Entries