The Carnival is Over by Greg Woodland: A cracking crime read

The Carnival is Over is the taut, atmospheric sequel to Greg Woodland’s wonderful debut historical rural crime novel The Night Whistler. Read my full review.

The Carnival is Over Synopsis

The Carnival is Over Book Review, author Greg Woodland

1971—Hal is seventeen, with dreams of escaping from Moorabool to a life in the city. But right now he’s on a good behaviour bond and stuck in a job he hates, paying off the car he ‘borrowed’ and crashed. Hal’s packing-room job makes him a target for workplace bullies and the friendship of the older, more worldly Christine is all that makes each day bearable. So when she doesn’t turn up for work, he’s on the alert.

So is Sergeant Mick Goodenough. But he already knows what’s happened to Christine: the same thing that happened to the newly elected deputy mayor. When another gruesome ‘accident’ occurs in Moorabool, Goodenough suspects there’s something sinister going on behind the scenes at the abattoir.

Mick and Hal are both determined to dig up the truth. Before long each of them is going to find himself in mortal danger and running for his life.

Greg Woodland, author of the acclaimed The Night Whistler, returns with another nailbiting rural thriller that will have you on the edge of your seat.

(Text Publishing, August 2022)

Genre: Crime-Detective, Thriller, Mystery, Historical

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Book Review

The Carnival is Over is a title I was eager to get my hands on, but ultimately approached with some trepidation. Why? I absolutely loved Greg Woodland’s debut. It had that ‘special something’ required to earn a Booklover Book Reviews’ 5-star rating and was my favourite crime read of 2020. Would it be possible to conjure up that same magic in a sequel?

Of his debut novel The Night Whistler, I said:

“The historical country setting of 1960s Moorabool crackles like the dry grass underfoot, with tension and injustice — racial, gender, domestic and political.” 

In his depiction of 1971 regional Australia in The Carnival is Over, Woodland’s scene-setting mastery is once again on full display. For me, it is his attention to detail (the flora, the climate, the light) that really heightens reader immersion; the way he utilises all his characters’ senses, and of course all the wonderful time and place-specific references – the shop names, the brands, the car models, the TV shows and music on the radio. And yes, while there is of course multi-layered meaning in this book title, The Seeker’s iconic song ‘The Carnival is Over’ does make a brief appearance. That I read this within a day of their much-loved lead-singer Judith Durham’s passing made it all the more poignant.

Character development, timeline and tension

Fans of the dogged Sergeant Mick Goodenough will be pleased to know his world-weary dry inner monologue remains in play, both with the staff under his command and those he finds himself interviewing – names removed from the below to avoid spoilers:

The door swung open again and XXXXX stared out, looking anything but happy to help. Seated at the desk next to him was a bespectacled lady with a vivid purple rinse in her hair who glanced not at the policemen but at YYYYY himself, with distaste, and hissed, ‘Joyce.’ Hovering back a couple of desks behind her was ZZZZZ, in suit and tie… Mick caught the familiar glare and nodded; the mayor ignored him. Goodenough checked the faces, looking for signs of esprit de corps in this happy bunch of pilgrims. All of it seemed to be concentrated in the big, beaming presence of YYYYY. Mick smiled back.

But since 5 years have passed since the events in The Night Whistler, the sweet pre-teen characters (and easy inter-racial friendships) are now sometimes reckless, oftentimes frustrated late teens wary of the authorities, trying to find their way in a society scarred with racial prejudice.

On the flipside, this new context imbued many a scene in The Carnival is Over with knife-edge tension — Woodland’s dialogue and depiction of confrontations superb. Plus, the material passing of time made the scope of criminality uncovered in that same small town setting eminently plausible; cleverly dodging the ‘Midsummer Murders fanciful crime-rate’ badge.

The Carnival is Over is another taut, atmospheric crime mystery from Greg Woodland. It is a novel that could easily be read as a standalone, but honestly, why deprive yourself of this series’ wonderful debut?

Woodland has set up both his late-teen and police character sets with great scope for future storylines. On that basis alone, I look forward to the next instalment from Moorabool.

BOOK RATING: The Story 4.5 / 5 ; The Writing 5 / 5 – Overall 4.75

Get your copy of The Carnival is Over from:

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More The Carnival is Over reviews

‘This atmospheric, fast-paced and suspense-filled novel grabbed me from the first page and didn’t let up until the last. A thoroughly entertaining and terrific sequel.’ – Rae Cairns author of The Good Mother

‘Woodland joins a growing number of Australian authors writing brilliant rural crime, and we can’t get enough of them. Fans of Margaret Hickey and Chris Hammer will devour this.’ – BetterReading

‘This is another excellent helping of Australian rural crime fiction, and more of this cast will be most welcome. ‘ – Marianne, Goodreads

About the Author, Greg Woodland

Greg Woodland is an author, screenwriter and former director. Since 2000 he’s worked as a freelance script editor and consultant for film funding bodies and the Australian Writers’ Guild and taught screenwriting at Sydney film schools and universities. His first novel, The Night Whistler, was shortlisted for a 2021 Ned Kelly Award. Visit his website for more information.

This review counts toward my participation in the Aussie Author Challenge 2022.

* My receipt of a review copy from the publisher did not impact the expression of my honest opinions above.