I really enjoyed Deadly Intent as my introduction to Reggie da Costa, the chief reporter of “The Argus”. Murder mysteries are always good if they are led by a strong character who, as readers, we can follow as they pursue their investigations, and Laraine Stephens has provided just such a protagonist in her dapper and suave reporter. Whilst he may appear shallow with his eagerness to find a rich bride and maintain a fashionable appearance, Reggie is a seeker of truth and fairness with principles – when it suits.
When Reggie stumbles across a corpse in a trunk, he is determined to find out who did it. This discovery in the narrative comes immediately after an opening chapter that is gripping, as Stephens shows us a similar murder being perpetrated whilst the identity of the killers are kept from us. It was macabre and chilling but beautifully evoked to create atmosphere. It was at this point that I knew this was going to be a good book.
Reggie, with his contact at the police, Sergeant O’Flanagan, and his newly acquired friend, Dotty Wright as source and soundboard respectively, interviews and pursues his line of investigation. This takes him through the seamier parts of Melbourne, encountering gangsters and their henchmen as well as the upper echelons of the city’s glitterati. He also has family tensions at home which Stephens includes in her narrative seamlessly.
This is a great murder mystery. Stephens’ writing is assured and her plot development is tight, which means that a reader can become fully immersed in her fictional world. Her characters are clearly defined and her dialogue is great. I loved the exchanges between Reggie and Dotty, and Dotty herself as a supporting character provided a strong female presence, astute and rational.
It also has a clear grounding in Melbourne’s history with Reggie and Dotty becoming caught up in real-life situations and this all adds to the story.
I would thoroughly recommend this for murder mystery fans who like an easy, fluid and satisfying read. I will be reading more of Stephens’ work for sure.
I received an advance review copy for free.