Double Madness by Caroline de Costa

Published by Margaret River Press, 2015

 If you like detective stories and a rollicking good read, with a nice dose of voyeurism thrown in, this first novel by Caroline de Costa, is definitely for you. “Double Madness” is a crime novel set in far North Queensland. Not surprisingly, place is a very strong element throughout the novel, reflecting the beauty of this humid, lush area full of spectacular scenery. A woman’s body is discovered tied to a tree with expensive silk scarves in the rainforest, several weeks after cyclone Yasi has devastated the region. It’s a mystery as to who the woman is and how she died. The main criminal investigation that follows is led by attractive indigenous detective, Cass Diamond, supported by her boss, Leslie Ferrando and other crime fighters. the-cover-of-double-madnessThe theme of doctors being blackmailed enters in the second chapter, suggesting a motive for the woman’s murder, and the narrator is careful to portray the missing husband of Odile Janvier as probably not capable of carrying it out. The irony and subtle humour underlying this novel is apparent early on through the author’s choice of names. The Latino names (Borgese and Ferrando) echo those of well-known male detectives in other novels, but the shining designation of “Cass Diamond” to the young female detective breaks the mould, as does the murdered woman’s name, “Odile Janvier”, that seems to suit her perfectly. Straight, unisex Aussie names (Chris, Tim, Troy) offer an ironic contrast to the more exotic ones. There is also a subtle pairing and doubling of names, underscoring the theme of the book’s title, and emphasising difference, as well as Australia’s multicultural mix.