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The Stoning


ISBN: 978-1-925760-79-8 Format: Trade PB, 352pp Rights: ANZ, North America Release / Publication Date: 01 /10 /2021
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A struggling cop, long-buried secrets, a town gone awry – this is outback noir with the noir dialled right up. I loved it.’

CHRIS HAMMER, bestselling author of Scrublands, Silver and Trust

A small outback town wakes to a savage murder.

Molly Abbott, a popular teacher at the local school, is found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Suspicion falls on the refugees at the new detention centre on Cobb’s northern outskirts. Tensions are high between immigrants and some of the town’s residents.

Detective Sergeant Georgios ‘George’ Manolis is despatched to his childhood hometown to investigate. His late father immigrated to Australia in the 1950s, where he was first housed at the detention centre’s predecessor – a migrant camp. He later ran the town’s only milk bar.

Within minutes of George’s arrival, it is clear that Cobb is not the same place he left as a child. The town once thrived, but now it’s disturbingly poor and derelict, with the local police chief it seemingly deserves. As Manolis negotiates his new colleagues’ antagonism and the simmering anger of a community destroyed by alcohol and drugs, the ghosts of his own past flicker to life. His work is his calling, his centre, but now he finds many of the certainties of his life are crumbling.

White skin, black skin, brown skin – everyone is a suspect in this tautly written novel that explores the nature of prejudice and keeps the reader guessing to the last. The Stoning is an atmospheric page-turner, a brilliant crime novel with superb characters, but also a nuanced and penetrating insight into the heart of a country intent on gambling with its soul.

‘A crime novel with a difference; gritty and menacing with a terrific sense of place. A highly relevant examination of racism in an outback town. Detective Sergeant George Manolis is a great new addition to the Australian crime scene.’

EMMA VISKIC, author of the award-winning Caleb Zelic crime series

‘Up there with the stars of outback noir like Jane Harper and Chris Hammer. A brilliant new name in crime fiction.’

CASS GREEN, bestselling author of The Woman Next Door

‘I was unable to put this book down – it’s dark, gritty and utterly compelling. In George Manolis, you have a detective in the tradition of Chandler’s Marlowe, yet entirely right for the times in which we live now – he’s superbly written.’

WYL MENMUIR, author of The Many, nominated for the 2016 Man Booker Prize

The Stoning repels and compels at the same time, laying bare the festering secrets of a small town one by one. A thoughtful and confident debut.’

SULARI GENTILL, award-winning Australian author of the Rowland Sinclair crime series

Peter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece in 1974 and adopted as a baby to an Australian family. His debut book, a memoir, was published in 2019. Peter’s writing has otherwise been published by The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, The Seattle Times, The Guardian UK, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, Good Weekend, ABC and SBS. He holds a Master of Arts in Creative Writing from City, University of London; a Doctor of Philosophy in Biomedical Sciences from The Australian National University (ANU); and a Bachelor of Laws from ANU specialising in criminal law.

“A really terrific Aussie noir novel, with a small town setting – an observant, atmospheric and relevant tale that is beautifully written & intensely authentic with a complex cast and engaging main protagonist. Recommended.” – Liz Barnsley, Liz Loves Books blog

At dawn one Sunday, homicide detective George Manolis is woken with a call: a schoolteacher has been murdered in the outback town of Cobb, and the local police need his help. He knows why he was the one chosen for this job, but when he gets there it’s clear nobody wants his assistance. Cobb is a small, closed-in town, suffering from the broken promises of the detention centre that brought jobs only to outsiders and added an extra layer of misery to the dust and heat. The crime—Molly Abbott was tied to a tree and stoned to death—has directed the town’s rage towards the detention centre’s Muslim occupants, but Manolis doesn’t make assumptions. In an environment simmering with racial tensions and an escalating, deadly distrust of the law, Manolis must find out who killed Molly before the truth becomes lost to the town’s bitter history forever. In the tradition of Sarah Thornton’s Lapse, Chris Hammer’s Scrublands and, of course, Jane Harper’s The Dry, The Stoning grips from its disturbing opening to its high-octane showdown. This book has everything Australian rural noir readers could want: suspicious townsfolk, searing heat and a flawed main character given a case bungled by local law enforcement that seems unlikely to hold up in court. Peter Papathanasiou’s debut novel is a bleak, harrowing look at small-town racism, hypocrisy and intolerance, and an altogether gripping read.

Fiona Hardy, Books+Publishing

‘The opening scene of this remarkable debut is horrible. A woman is being pushed in a shopping trolley through the dustbowl town of Cobb at night: “A pale-blue mist of eucalyptus obscured the stars above, a new moon cloaking the land in darkness.” She is then gaffer-taped to a tree and stoned to death: “The first stone flew through the air, caved in her forehead and smashed the frontal bone.” Who would do this to a teacher? The barflies in the pub have no doubt it must be someone from the nearby immigrant detention centre dubbed “the brown house”: “The ’flies laughed, full and hearty, guts quivering, mouths agape, rotten teeth, shrivelled heads.” When Detective Sergeant George Manolis, who is kind to wombats and possums, is sent to help Sergeant Fyfe and his two deputies to find the killer he is welcomed with open hostility: “Well fuck me without a kiss,” Fyfe says. “You must be the city mouse.” And so it goes, even though it turns out Manolis has a personal connection to the place where the sky is so blue it overloads the brain and the superheated air feels like “dragon’s breath”. Further violence, fuelled by drink and drugs, erupts. As one of the suspects comments: “Isn’t it a sad bloody day when Australians are fighting among Australians to save Australia . . .?” It’s hard to believe this is Peter Papathanasiou’s first novel. He makes Chris Hammer and Jane Harper seem like amateurs. Outback noir has a new star.’ The Times UK