HomeAll postsSticks and Stones by Katherine Firkin

Sticks and Stones by Katherine Firkin

A review by Emma Streeton

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 family insist the devoted mother would never abandon her children. 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. (Sticks and stones may break my bones? – Editor)

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. To really understand these shocking crimes, Emmett 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.

Sticks and stones: burnt matchsticks form a hashtag

Not my usual fare

I don’t tend to do well with too much blood and gore so crime thrillers are not my usual read. However, I was asked to give this book a go and oh boy am I glad I did! What an incredibly exciting debut Firkin has produced. I was totally hooked from the first page and did not want to stop until I had helped Emmett solve the crime!

The story centers around the police investigation but there are also multiple side plots running alongside. These all successfully converge at the end to make for an extremely satisfying ending. Firkin also provides the reader with a real mix of different characters. It is unusual to find a novel where you find yourself invested in so many characters all at once. With Sticks and Stones you most certainly do. A number of the characters are complex, deceptive and flawed but it was very refreshing to have a lead detective who was not any of these things. Emmett is extremely likable. No arrogance and egotism allows a much more pleasant reading experience.

The verdict

This book was gripping throughout.  I kept changing my opinion from one chapter to another on who the murderer was. At one stage I was convinced I had worked out who the killer was and had it all making sense in my head. That was before yet another twist in the story unraveled, blowing my prediction out of the water. I loved how Firkin keeps you guessing right to the end. This story kept me on tenterhooks and raised my blood pressure in a good way!

Sticks and Stones is a wonderful read. A fast-paced thrilling crime novel (without excessive blood and gore) that will keep you guessing. What a debut for Katherine Firkin. I really hope there is more to come with Emmett Corban at the forefront.

Book details

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
ISBN: 9781760893026
Imprint: Bantam Australia (Penguin Random House)
Published: 2 June 2020
Format: Trade Paperback, 400 pages
Category: crime/thriller

Nalini is an award-winning writer and artist as well as managing editor of Dark Matter Zine.


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