Author(s): Katherine Firkin
'He didn't have to be normal, the boy realised. He just had to pretend.'
It's winter in Melbourne and Detective Emmett Corban is starting to regret his promotion to head of the Missing Persons Unit, as the routine reports pile up on his desk. So when Natale Gibson goes missing, he's convinced this is the big case he's been waiting for - the woman's husband and parents insist the devoted mother would never abandon her children, and her personal accounts remain untouched. But things aren't all they seem. The close-knit Italian family is keeping secrets - none bigger than the one Natale has been hiding.
Just as the net seems to be tightening, the investigation is turned on its head. The body of a woman is found . . . then another. What had seemed like a standard missing person's case has turned into a frightening hunt for a serial killer, and time is running out.
But to really understand these shocking crimes, Emmett and his team will need to delve back through decades of neglect - back to a squalid inner-city flat, where a young boy is left huddling over his mother's body . . .
"What begins as a routine investigation into the disappearance of a beloved mother quickly turns into the hunt for a merciless serial killer lead by Melbourne Detective Emmett Corban, head of the Missing Persons Unit. Corban’s unencumbered by the tropes of many series leads. He’s as clean-cut as they come, a dedicated husband and father, and a staunchly focused investigator, almost glowing with integrity. Presumably some kind of tragedy awaits him in future instalments. Cops in crime fiction never remain blindingly righteous for long. He’s kind of a blank canvas, at this point, this being his premiere, which works, because it means the pacy plot is the engine of the novel. And it certainly thrums.
Structurally Sticks and Stones reminds me of Harlan Coben and Cara Hunter; short, taut chapters, regular changes of perspective and flashbacks maintain its acceleration. It’s chockfull of thrills rather than chills. When there’s violence on the page it’s fleeting rather than gratuitous or stomach churning. Firkin’s objective seems to be to speed up the readers’ page-turn, make the experience as breathless and twisty as possible, rather than terrify and unnerve. She succeeds. Firkin knows her craft. A fine start for an exciting new series."
— Simon McDonald (Potts Point Bookshop)