“I thought of the divisions, within and through my city, small ones, cracks in pavements and in people’s minds, that were familiar, nondescript, repeated as often as the scene in front of me was repeated, glowing and then gone. I thought of bigger divisions, moral and political, how Eden Carmichael had moved across them, and how that movement might be felt in the air. Just then, Canberra seemed to be a city struggling to give itself some kind of independent life.”
A publicly approved politician seems like somewhat of an anomaly to me, but a private sexually adventurous cross dressing politician somehow doesn’t; things that make you go hmmmmm. Eden is a story of dual-identities and direct misrepresentation. In the first case a conservative politician named Edward Carmichael is focused on establishing electronic censorship through ventures designed to produce filters for the internet after headlining a long-standing platform promoting anti-censorship. Working with the legislative assembly, an executive order is placed to protect the youth from easily accessible filth while surfing the web. But Edward also has an ulterior motive, and he needs the help of the senate to make it happen. On the other end of the identity conundrum there is a conflicted person that is bound by her progressive nature in her sexual freedom and desires, she is known by a select few as Eden Carmichael. When Eden abruptly dies of an apparent heart attack at her most frequented brothel, business owner and pseudo private investigator Sandra Mahoney is hired to find out the truth behind the censorship legislation and ends up being drawn in to the mystery surrounding one fateful January day. Typically she works in partnership with her “live in boyfriend” Ivan Semyonov, but while he is in Russia taking care of extended family matters, Sandra must take sole responsibility of Canberra’s fastest growing problem with help from her network of colleagues. Sandra doesn’t have the “look” of a professional investigator, to most she wouldn’t be regarded as a woman merely dressed for success. Lucky for her she dresses according to a psychological mindset that will best enable her to manipulate her persons of interest and get what she wants. Public perception aside, appearances can be deceiving and in the end it will raise the question of how far you’re willing to go to protect your true identity?
A politician, a floral shop owner, a movie producer and a madam walk into a bar…
“My first impression had been that Denise copied Margot in her style of dress, but now I wasn’t sure. I sensed that both had learnt to treat free talk as suspect, synonymous with waste. Say only as much as a client may be entitled to insist on, and no more. Dignity coexisted with a studied reticence. Words failed, or were inadequate, for so much. In a brothel, I suspected, they became a measure of the margins.
You can see the effort the author put forth in gathering information and showcase the knowledge needed to represent credibility with her story. I was hoping the author would delve a little more into the security concerns surrounding the internet and not solely fixate on the untimely deaths of the character. Making it more technology based would have made it more complex than a straight up murder mystery. There were also quite a few loose ends and I would have appreciated more digging and closure. Another problem I had with this novel was that I really felt lost at points and definitely felt the effects of not reading the two prior books in the series; something I take issue with serial novels. The biggest problem I had with this novel was that I couldn’t figure out in full, who exactly is Sandra Mahoney? What made her tick? Sandra felt blurry to me and I would have liked to have a better understanding.
The blurb on the back of the book mentioned “V.I. Warshawski, Canberra style”, and I saw many similarities between the troubled love life and even the apologies enlisted to the neglected dog for the lack of outdoor entertainment. I read Critical Mass by Sara Paretsky and that book blew me away with the depths that the author traveled to form the story. Eden was certainly enthralling, but it didn’t achieve the same response from me. I truly believe over time Dorothy Johnston will be well on her way to amazing work with Sandra Mahoney, and after reading reviews of her prior novels, it seems she has made great progress. Keep up the good work.
“The end of life in Jenny Bishop’s room smelt soft, rotting, sweet. There were a million ways for life to leave a body, a million small ways every second, so common as not to be remarked on, as unworthy of comment as masturbating in a handkerchief.”