In The Spotlight: Emma Viskic’s Resurrection Bay

SpotlightHello, All,

Welcome to another edition of In The Spotlight. The PI novel has taken many forms over the years, and that variety adds to the genre. Let’s take a look at a new variation on the PI theme today, and turn the spotlight on Emma Viskic’s debut novel, Resurrection Bay.

Caleb Zelic and his business partner, former police detective Frankie Reynolds, own Trust Works, a Victoria-based corporate security company. One day, Zelic gets an urgent text from an old friend, Senior Constable Gary ‘Gaz’ Marsden. The text begs Zelic to go over to Marsden’s house immediately, and makes reference to a man named ‘Scott’ who’s after him. By the time Zelic gets there, though, it’s too late: Marsden’s been brutally murdered.

Zelic was found with the body. What’s more, he has a long-standing relationship with Marsden. So he soon becomes a ‘person of interest.’ In part to clear his name, and in part as a way to cope with his sense of loss, Zelic starts asking questions.

One possibility – and it’s the one that seems to interest the police the most – is that Marsden was ‘bent,’ and involved in some underhanded dealings. Zelic’s first thought is, ‘Not Gaz.’ But it’s not out of the question, and there’s evidence it could be true. If so, then Marsden could’ve been killed by one of his ‘business associates.’ Or, were those associates actually the target of an investigation Marsden was running? If so, that would be a very good motive for his murder. There are other possibilities, too. And as Zelic and Reynolds look into them, Zelic learns that his friend’s life was much more complicated than he’d thought.

The key to it all seems to be Scott, but no-one Zelic talks to admits to knowing that person. As Zelic tries to track Scott down, it becomes clear that Scott knows he’s being hunted. He’s ruthless, too, and willing to kill, both to evade capture and to prevent anyone from talking. It’s not long before Scott turns his sights on Zelic.

The closer Zelic gets to Scott, the more danger there is for him. Not only do the police quite possibly still have him in their sights, but so does Scott. And so does anyone who answers to Scott. Zelic knows this, but there aren’t many people he can turn to without putting them at serious risk as well. In the end, Zelic finds out the truth about his friend’s murder. He also has to face some uncomfortable truths about himself and his past.

The story takes place in Melbourne and in the small town of Resurrection Bay, so one important element in the novel is the sense of place and context. In the dialogue, the type of wit, the social interactions, the scenery, and so on, Viskic places the reader in that part of Australia.

Zelic is a PI, so another element in the novel is his and Reynolds’ way of getting information. They don’t have the force of law to support them, although Reynolds is still friends with former colleagues. So they have to rely on information they can learn through interviews, Internet searches, and so on. In fact, there’s one scene in which they get some assistance from a highly skilled teenage computer whiz, who helps them get some information they need:

‘‘How old are you again?’ [Reynolds]
‘Old enough to know more about computers than you’re ever gunna.’ She stood up. ‘Come up to the workshop and I’ll have a look.’
‘It won’t make you late for school?’ Caleb asked.
‘Seriously? You’re playing Mummy again?’
He gave her a level stare, and to his surprise, her eyes lowered.
‘It’s just Sport,’ she said.’

That snippet also shows the wit in the story.

But this isn’t a funny story. In fact, it’s rather a dark one. Readers who look for happy endings, where the ‘bad guy’ is duly arrested and the ‘good guys’ are all just fine will notice this. In keeping with the gritty tone of the novel, there is also violence, and it’s not all ‘off stage.’ Readers who prefer to avoid a lot of violence (and, incidentally, a lot of salty language) will notice this. That said, though, the novel isn’t unrelentingly bleak and hopeless. There are people who turn out to be ‘good guys,’ and I can say without spoiling the story that there is some resolution to some issues in Zelic’s life.

Since the story is told from Zelic’s perspective (in third person), we learn quite a bit about his character. Zelic has been profoundly deaf since his childhood. He speech reads, and he wears hearing aids. So he can function in the hearing world to an extent. But he also uses Australian Sign Language (Auslan), and communicates most fluently in that language. He finds it difficult to admit when he’s having trouble understanding, although he doesn’t deny his deafness. Those close to him see that deafness as simply a part of his identity. But it also puts him at risk, and that adds tension to the novel. Still, he is intelligent, determined (or is that stubborn?) and loyal to his mates.

Zelic is divorced, and as the story goes on, we get to know his ex-wife, Kat, who is Koori. She’s an artist, quick-thinking and intelligent, with a unique way of looking at the world. She also has a very deep understanding of her ex-husband that also helps the reader to understand him. Readers who prefer strong female characters will appreciate both Kat and her mother, Maria.

We also get to know Zelic’s business partner Frankie Reynolds. She’s a complex character with plenty of her own demons. At the same time, she has a sense of loyalty to Zelic, and he to her. Neither is the type to gush, but they do like and respect each other, despite their faults. Their friendship is an important element in the novel.

Resurrection Bay is a gritty PI novel with some dark wit and a distinctive Australian setting. It features a determined protagonist who has to learn to face himself, and a mystery that turns out to be much more, and much more dangerous, than it seems on the surface. But what’s your view? Have you read Resurrection Bay? If you have, what elements do you see in it?



Coming Up On In The Spotlight

Monday, 18 July/Tuesday, 19 July – Unleashed – David Rosenfelt

Monday, 25 July/Tuesday, 26 July – Our Trespasses – Steph Avery

Monday, 1 August/Tuesday, 2 August – Shield of Straw – Kazuhiro Kiuchi


Filed under Emma Viskic, Resurrection Bay

23 responses to “In The Spotlight: Emma Viskic’s Resurrection Bay

  1. Oh this does sound good Margot – as you know I’m particularly fond when the characters learn more about themselves through the past, this is even more intriguing as it was his friend’s murder that revealed these to him. And with strong female characters as well, it sounds like a winner to me.

    • I really hope you’ll like it if you try it, Cleo. I agree completely with you that that sort of character development can really add to a story. And what I must admit I like about Caleb Zelic is that he’s got his own issues and so on, but he doesn’t wallow. And yes, the female characters in the novel are strong and well-defined, at least in my opinion. I’ll be keen to know what you think if you do get the chance to read it.

  2. kathyd

    I don’t have too much to add to the post. I liked Resurrection Bay and the main character, Caleb Zelic. It is a fast-faced type of thriller, a page-turner, but one with an interesting protagonist, who has a disability, but that doesn’t slow him down at all. He’s right in the action. It’s good to see that involvement and drive by a character who doesn’t allow his disability to stop him from his mission to find out the murderers of his friend.
    Also interested to learn a bit more about Indigenous culture and characters; hope that continues in the future books, and I’m glad to learn there will be more mysteries featuring Zelic.
    My friend, Brenda, a mystery enthusiast, said this about Resurrection Bay, “Emma Viskic’s book is wonderful! I hope she gets lots of praise for it.”
    I guess we’ll be hovering over Book Depository next year waiting for book two.

    • I agree with you, Kathy, that there’s some interesting information about the Koori people in the novel. And yes, Zelic doesn’t allow himself to be slowed down or impeded by the fact that he doesn’t hear. He finds ways to deal with it. I’m very glad you and your friend enjoyed it as well as you did, and I am looking forward to next year’s release of Caleb Zelic #2.

  3. tracybham

    Sounds very interesting and I hope to read the book someday. Unfortunately, it only seems to be available here in e-book format; Maybe at a later date it will be available here in print.

  4. kathyd

    Tracy: Try the Book Depository. I had contacted the Australian publisher about getting the book; they charged $30 plus $20 for shipping. I got this book from the Book Depository for $20, free shipping.
    I don’t mean to promote any distributor, but sometimes this works out.

  5. Sounds good, though I’m not a major fan of PI books in general. I don’t think I’ve read about an Australian PI before – in fact, I’m struggling to think of any crime novels I’ve read set in Australia. I am tempted, but must resist! For the moment anyway… 😉

    • I know what you mean about resisting, FictionFan. I have to do that a lot (A-hem – including on your blog!). I think you might really like the authentic Australian context, since I know you like a solid sense of place in your novels. If you do ever fit this one in, I hope you’ll enjoy it.

  6. Thanks so much for this, Margot. I really appreciate the care you put into reading and writing about Resurrection Bay. You certainly picked up on a lot of elements that were important to me, including Caleb’s emotional journey (and the ‘salty’ language!)

    • It’s my great pleasure to spotlight Resurrection Bay, Emma. Glad you enjoyed the ppost. I am very much looking forward to seeing how Caleb’s journey continues in the next book. Psst, folks, the next one’s due out next year. You’ll want to stay tuned.

  7. Great to see Resurrection Bay spotlighted, Margot. As you know, this was one of my favourite local (for me) crime reads in 2015. I’ve got money on it taking one of the major Australian crime writing prizes this year…

    • It was a pleasure to spotlight this one, Angela. And you’re by no means the only one who’s given it very high praise. I wouldn’t be surprised if it does take at least one of those prizes.

  8. I just keep finding new books to add to my ever growing list. Thanks, Margot. This one sounds most interesting. 🙂

  9. I haven’t read this one, but I’m happy to see another book with a deaf character! I’ll recommend this to my Aussie buddy, Lectito.

    • I like the way Zelic’s deafness is addressed in the novel, GtL. It’s part of who he is. Yes, it limits him in some ways, but it doesn’t define him. I hope your friend enjoys it.

  10. Isn’t it great to see some diverse and sometimes quirky main characters in our reading? I loved this read.

    • I’m glad you did enjoy it so well, Carol. And I agree: there are some fascinating characters in it. And some are quirky, but without being so bizarre that you can’t imagine they could exist.

  11. Col

    One to keep an eye out for, thanks.

What's your view? I'd love to hear it.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s