The Darkest Little Room


ISBN: 9781921924248 Format: Trade Paperback Rights: World Release / Publication Date: 01 /09 /2012


‘The darkest little room in the world is the human heart,’ she said at last. ‘Even yours, perhaps, has black secrets that you would never let into the light.’

Patrick’s Holland’s haunting new novel arises from his experiences in Indochina. An atmospheric literary thriller, it tells the story of a foreign journalist living in Saigon who, shortly after reporting on a murdered girl washed up in Saigon River, is approached by a foreigner describing a brothel known as ‘the darkest little room in Saigon’. The mysterious man shows him a photograph of a beautiful woman covered in wounds and the journalist investigates, not only out of suspicion that women are being maltreated, but also in the hope of finding someone from his past.

Rich in setting and characterisation, and pure in voice, The Darkest Little Room explores the elemental dilemmas of being an outsider, the nature of desire, and the risks of loving, especially in a world where no one is who they seem.

A page turning, tightly wound mystery from the author of The Mary Smokes Boys and Riding the Trains in Japan.

‘Thriller, love story, a journey of redemption … this is both a stunning page-turner and an investigation into the dim caverns of the human heart and soul that bears comparison to Graham Greene and Joseph Conrad. Holland’s writing is spare, gripping, and unexpectedly flares like the burning of Vietnamese paper money, as the book describes, for the ghosts of the unloved dead. Here is humour, menace and beauty effortlessly combined in a novel of genuine power. Holland is, quite simply, one of the best prose stylists working in Australia today.’ Matthew Condon

‘Tense, troubling and beautifully rendered, this remarkable novel proves that the darkest little room is indeed the human heart. Patrick Holland has joined the ranks of the adventurer novelists and enhanced his growing reputation.’ Michael Robotham

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.

Patrick Holland is a novelist and short story writer. He is the author of seven books, most notably The Mary Smokes Boys (2010), which was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Award and is currently being made into a feature film. His work has been recognised by awards including the Miles Franklin, the Dublin Literary Award, the International Scott Prize and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, and has been published, performed and broadcast in Australia, the USA, Hong Kong, the UK and Ireland, Italy and Japan. Patrick is currently Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Hong Kong Baptist University and divides his time between Hong Kong and Brisbane.


Patrick Holland will be one of Australia’s greatest writers of the future. I can’t say you heard it here first because everyone is saying it. The Darkest Little Room is his first novel since The Mary Smokes Boys. A crime novel with a literary heart. Set in Vietnam and surrounds, it is about the disturbing world of sex slave trading, about sexual obsession, racial misunderstandings, violence, religion and the potential for love. If you find yourself hooked after reading this crime thriller, check out The Mary Smokes Boys and the travel memoir, Riding the Trains in Japan.

Krissy Kneen, Sunday Mail, 9 September 2012 

The real terror of the tale lies in the mundaneness of its settings: children at play snatched from outside their homes; traders who appear to be benign old men picking up their ‘daughters’ – drugged and desensitised by rape and other abuse – outside busy railway stations. Joseph concludes that sex slavery is aided and abetted by globalism. He says: “This is the dream our politicians have been having for a century. The free trade in unrestricted currency of everything we most desire in the darkest chambers of our hearts.”


Cheryl Jorgensen, Courier Mail, October 2012

INDEPENDENT Melbourne publisher Transit Lounge has made a significant mark on the Australian publishing scene in the past two years by combining a winning roster of eclectic travel writers (Inez Baranay, Felicity Castagna, Aaron Smith, Amy Choi) and top-notch dark and original fiction from Peter Barry, Ouyang Yu and Patrick Holland, among others. The latter has done especially well for it, bridging both categories via his travel book, Riding the Trains in Japan: Travels in the Sacred and Supermodern East, and highly regarded second novel, The Mary Smokes Boys, which was long-listed for the Miles Franklin Award and shortlisted for The Age Book of the Year award last year. 

That Holland should choose to pen a ”literary thriller” makes good sense. The pregnant atmosphere he captured in The Mary Smokes Boys with his rich, measured prose is in evidence once more here and is underpinned by a sense of urgency that renders the book extremely compelling. Despite the contemporary setting, Holland’s characters are a throwback to the tough days of expat noir – Joseph has stepped straight out of the pages of Graham Greene or Ernest Hemingway. He has the brutal determination of a man driven to get what he wants, irrespective of the cost. His occasional bad temper and readiness to use a revolver are reminiscent of Raymond Chandler’s detectives, which makes him fun to read but perhaps a little incongruous. If the story had been set in the 1930s, it would have been equally effective. Some scenes are pure film noir and a moody movie version can easily be imagined.

In these tumultuous times for publishing, the focus is often on extremely well-established authors or new ones, so it is gratifying to see a select few Australian fiction writers maturing through their second, third and fourth novels. Holland is one of these, and The Darkest Little Room might prove to be a watershed moment in his career. The short 38 chapters are well weighted and cinematic, lending the narrative a relentless pace. The dialogue is tough and curt, the descriptions often achingly beautiful. There are elements of mystery and otherworldliness woven throughout this exciting story but also a sense of gravitas, that what Holland is examining here is important – the appalling treatment of women as sex slaves in Asia and the Western man’s complicity in this sordid business.

In many ways, The Darkest Little Room is the perfect 21st-century Australian novel, exposing the cruel underbelly of life in the Asia-Pacific region while also managing to be a cracking read.

Chris Flynn, The Age and  Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 27 October

Holland evokes a suitably seedy, nightmarish world. This is a world of  of drug-addled bodies and duplicity; dimly lit nightclubs and dangerous criminals . The characters are believable  and the novel crackles with a relentelss tension … the novel is a compelling read.

Jay Daniel Thompson, Australian Book Review, December 2012