In the last days of December, I reread Resurrection Bay by Emma Viskic and then moved on to And Fire Came Down, the sequel to Viskic's award-winning Australian debut.
I had hoped that Caleb would be in a better place by the time of the second novel, but the traumatic events of the first novel continue to taint Caleb's life in the sequel.
A case of meningitis when Caleb was five left him with profound hearing loss. In many ways, Caleb has overcome the disability--he wears hearing aids that help him identify some sounds but must depend on lip reading to interpret spoken language. Impressive, but not always enough even when someone is facing him directly for him to catch everything. If they mutter or turn away, important elements of conversation can be lost. This would be frustrating and confusing in normal circumstances, but as Caleb is a PI with a tendency to get involved in dangerous cases, the problem can be treacherous.
Previously, he has depended on his partner to fill in conversational blanks, but in And Fire Came Down, Caleb doesn't have that advantage. His emotional stability depended on his wife Kat, but they have been separated for nearly two years, and although he thought they were rebuilding their connections, Kat has been gone for four months at the beginning of this installment. Caleb's pride has often kept him from admitting his deafness, making many situations worse than necessary. He makes occasional concessions in admitting his lack of hearing--a little progress--but still struggles to keep from acknowledging his disability.
In Melbourne, a depressed Caleb is approached by a young woman who begs for his help; accosted by a man who terrifies her, the young woman attempts to flee and runs in front of a car. Unable to understand her last words, Caleb determines to find out more.
Who sent her to Caleb? A note on a receipt leads Caleb back to Resurrection Bay and into another case that will put his own life in danger and the lives of those he cares about.
What makes these books stand out is not simply that the protagonist is deaf, but the way characters deal with all of the complications of life. Personal hubris, marriage, family, community, racial prejudice and violence, social problems from vandalism to drugs--the issues that are pertinent today in any setting or culture become personal in the microcosm of Resurrection Bay.
Read in Dec.; blog review scheduled for Jan. 14
NetGalley/Bonnier Publishing Australia/Pushkin Press U.S., UK
Crime/PI. 2017. Print length: 336 pages.