Death Leaves the Station, Review: Thorpe’s vintage mystery

Death Leaves the Station by Alexander Thorpe is a classy homage to the classic whodunnit and a highly intriguing and entertaining crime read. Read on for my full review.

Death Leaves the Station Book Synopsis

Death Leaves the Station - Alexander Thorpe - Book ReviewIt’s 1927 and a lapsed Catholic friar, who shall not be named, turns up uninvited and unannounced at Halfwell Station in the Australian wheat belt. There he meets Ana, the station owners’ adopted daughter who is distraught after discovering a body in the desert – a body which subsequently disappears. Enter Detective-Sergeant Arnold Parkes and Cooper, an Indigenous tracker, who draw Ana and the friar into a relentless tour of the outback, then down to the big city, as they search for the corpse and a killer.

Death Leaves the Station brings the cosy country-house intrigue of crime fiction’s Golden Age to the Australian wheat belt.

‘With Death Leaves the Station, a strong and highly entertaining new voice can now be added to the great tradition of cosy, historical murder mysteries.’  — Books+Publishing

‘Thorpe’s witty descriptions are laugh-out-loud funny and his Latinate sentences are a pleasure to read… The novel is tightly plotted and provides an enjoyable and thought-provoking insight into Western Australia’s past.’ — Writing WA

(Fremantle Press – October 2020)

Genre: Historical, Mystery, Crime-Detective

Disclosure: If you click a link in this post we may earn a small commission to help offset our running costs.


Death Leaves the Station may be slim on pages but the text upon them is an artfully distilled vintage of the mystery genre.

Thorpe’s omniscient third-person narrative is like a dog on a leash, ostensibly restrained but alert to any opportunity to hide delightful literary whimsy in plain sight.

The friar’s eyes sparkled.
‘A pleasure to meet you, Mr Harris,’ he laughed.
The three were seated, the teapot was lifted anew, and the conversation began slowly to find its feet, propelled by the potent combination of Earl Grey, shortbread and the grateful garrulousness with which Mrs Harris attacked any ambassador of the outside world. As she whittled away at the wooden silence, her husband looked the stranger up and down, waiting for a familiar pattern to emerge from the grain.

The wry humour that crackles just below the surface is as dry as this crime mystery’s sunbaked outback setting, and a delight to read.

But, racial and gender tensions also simmer. And, over the course of the criminal investigation, Thorpe offers modern readers timely reminders of the fickle and arbitrary societal inequities that were commonplace less than a century prior.

In this debut novel, Thorpe demonstrates beautifully the value of understatement and omission to underscore meaning.

Death Leaves the Station is a classy homage to the classic whodunnit and a highly intriguing and entertaining crime read. Ideally suited to fans of Agatha Christie’s ‘Poirot’ and Kerry Greenwood’s ‘Phryne Fisher‘.

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

Get your copy of Death Leaves the Station from:

Booktopia AU Amazon Book Depository Kobo Bookshop US

More intriguing historical crime mysteries:
The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton  /  Murder on a Midsummer Night (Phryne Fisher Mystery) by Kerry Greenwood  /  A Necessary Murder by M J Tjia  /  The Night Whistler by Greg Woodland  /  The Comedy Club Mystery by Peter Bartram

About the Author, Alexander Thorpe

Alexander Thorpe is from Fremantle, Western Australia. He has written advertising copy for pool cleaners and concrete supply companies, taught English in Joseph Stalin’s hometown and almost managed to read half of James Joyce’s Ulysses twice (which is more or less the same as having almost managed to read the whole book). Alex has written for news outlets, travel journals, marketing companies and educational providers, and has recently completed his first novel, Death Leaves the Station.

This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2020.

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