Man at the Window by Robert Jeffreys, Review: Authentic moral dilemma

Man at the Window is Robert Jeffreys’ debut novel, and the first in the Detective Cardilini series, set in 1960s Western Australia. Atmospheric crime fiction with a burning moral dilemma at its heart.

Man at the Window - Robert JeffreysMan at the Window Synopsis:

When a boarding master at an exclusive boys’ school is shot dead, it is deemed accidental. A lazy and usually drunk detective is sent to write up the report. Cardilini unexpectedly does not cooperate, as he becomes riled by the privileged arrogance of those at the school. He used to have instincts. Perhaps he should follow them now…

With no real evidence, he declares the shooting a murder and puts himself on a collision course with the powerful and elite of Perth. As he peels back layers, the school’s dark secrets being to emerge. But is his dogged pursuit of justice helpful or harmful to those most affected by the man’s death?

The tension of the central dilemma will keep you turning the pages – a classic whodunit mixed with ‘should they really get caught?’ It’s set in a vivid and atmospheric rural 1960s Australia and features an appealing main character – the classic detective with a sketchy past, given the chance to redeem himself.

This highly topical novel for-the-moment asks: what is the appropriate punishment for those who harm children, and those who cover it up?

(Echo Publishing, December 2018; Zaffre, UK May 2019, US October 2019)

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This is certainly a heartening example for all the aspiring writers out there… a new and compelling historical crime series in print, straight from Echo’s slush pile.

What stood out for me about Man at the Window, was…. nothing. An odd way to compliment a writer, I know. But let me explain… I found not one element in this crime novel overbearing or overwrought, which I think is a mean feat in such a well-trodden and commercial genre.

Lead Cardilini has his demons, he’s stubborn to the point of self-destructive at times, but not once did I question the plausibility of his thoughts or actions within context. He is not immediately likeable, yet likeably real.

The ‘brass’ were on the third level. The third level, to distinguish it from the lower levels, had re linoleum streaked with white. Suggesting royal blood was one theory, but Cardilini subscribed to another: the red linoleum was due to the amount of backstabbing that went on.

Just as in real life, not all dialogue sparkles and there are roadblocks and slower moments.

Man at the Window Robert JeffreysComplex motivations

In Man at the Window, the motivations for the murder, its investigation and indeed cover-up, are complex — right and wrong is far from black and white — but that does not absolve one from engaging. A victim’s narrative provides perspective without being cloying. The tension and moral dilemmas ring true… as do the compromises different characters make. That hierarchy is inescapable, but their power bases often tenuous, is skillfully demonstrated.

Jeffreys reminds us of the social and physical environment and time period, 1960s Western Australia, in a subtle and nuanced fashion — it is not signposted on every page; we are not bombarded with cliche or tone that belittles in retrospect. Artful prose and wit is used sparingly, but when it is, to great effect.

Suburban homes lined the street. Low buildings hunkered down against the heat like turtles. Gum trees gathered occasionally in parks trapped by low cyclone wire fences.

In Man at the Window, Robert Jeffreys brings all these ingredients together to form a novel that is hard not to be drawn into and engage with – not as a slice of history long past, but a tale with thematic resonance and ongoing importance in society’s conscience.

I look forward to following Detective Cardilini’s journey.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4 / 5 ; The Writing 4 / 5

Get your copy of Man at the Window, Detective Cardilini #1 from:


Genre: Mystery, Crime-Detective, Historical, Thriller

* This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2018 and the 2018 New Release Challenge.

About the Author, Robert Jeffreys

Robert Jeffreys has worked as an actor, teacher, builder, labourer, cleaner, real estate agent, personal security agent and playwright of the professionally produced stage plays Cox Four, Covert, The Simple Truth, and The Messenger. ABC Radio National featured his radio plays, Covert, which received an AWGIE award, and Bodily Harm. He has also published a poetry anthology, Frame of Mind. Robert’s debut novel, Man at the Window, is the first in the Detective Cardilini series, set in 1960s Western Australia.

* My receiving a copy from the publisher for review purposes did not impact the expression of my honest opinions.