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The Diggers Rest Hotel

by Geoffrey McGeachin

Reviewed by Bronwen Wade, ABC 1062 on September 23, 2010

Diggers Rest Hotel

This fantastic book is set partly in Melbourne but mostly around Albury-Wodonga just 2 years after the end of World War 2 in 1947. Charlie Berlin is damaged goods. During the war he was a Lancaster bomber pilot who was shot down over Germany and held in a prisoner of war camp in the closing stages of the war. While a prisoner in Poland he witnessed and endured some terrible things, including the death of young Jewish woman and extreme starvation, both had a profound effect on him. Now the war is over and he has rejoined the Victorian police force as a detective based in Melbourne, but what he experienced in the war, he still carries with him everyday.

He is sent to Albury-Wodonga to investigate a number of robberies and ends up staying at the Diggers Rest Hotel in Wodonga while on the case. It is here that he meets a big city newspaper journalist Rebecca Green, also covering the story but who becomes, you guessed it, a bit of a love interest. Together, and with the help of the locals, including a young policeman, Rob Roberts they investigate the case. Things become more complicated when a young woman is found murdered, minus her head, in a back alley in Wodonga, so Charlie takes on this investigation as well.

A great story with some real characters that you can relate to. The author really sets the scene well and describes Australian country life as it must have been after the war with food and clothing shortages playing their parts. When I read this book I could really picture what it must have been like around this period and when I finished the book I just wanted to read more featuring the detective Berlin. One part that really stayed with me was Charlie’s fixation with his one pair of shoes – good shoes were expensive and hard to get, and while being force marched as a prisoner in the Polish snow sometimes meant the difference between life and death. So after the war, Charlie still spends a little time each day caring for his shoes and thinks about the sort terrain he is going to walk over before the fact and how much wear and tear this will inflict on his shoes.

Bronwen Wade, ABC 1062‘s rating: 10 out of 10

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