BOOKS OF THE WEEK
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.”
VERDICT: AN ATMOSPHERIC THRILLER FOR THINKERS.
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