‘This wasn’t how I imagined being dead…’ The victim of a fatal car crash, Beth is dead but not departed. Instead her ghost is lingering by her widowed father, unwilling to leave him in his lonely devastation. Beth’s dad, a police detective, is the only person who can see and hear her. Embroiled in a murder investigation, he will come to rely on Beth’s budding talent for supernatural sleuthing. Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina is a uniquely Australian novel, weaving indigenous history into a clever metaphysical thriller.
The action takes place in an Australia we’re all familiar with. Flat red plains beneath an expanse of azure sky, gritty dust and eucalyptus trees. And then, shockingly, a pile of blackened timber ‘…and the lingering tang of smoke in the air.’ A children’s home has burned to the ground, an unidentifiable body found in the wreckage. The home had been inhabited by ‘troubled’ children and was located a notable distance from the nearest town. A town where it becomes clear that a select handful of individuals are wielding an awful lot of power,
The mystery is deepened by the emergence of a key witness, a young Aboriginal girl whose fantastical account encompasses terrifying winged beings and a life quite literally leached of colour. Isobel Catching is her name, and her story will make you contemplate alternate realities and the possibilities of a non-linear world. For Beth and her dad, investigating the case as a duo feels like a significant final act. Surely their earthly time together is drawing to a close.
At the end of this poetic and allegorical novel, the Authors’ Note reminds us of the Australian Government’s decades long removal of First Nations children from their families, a grim history that is integral to this cleverly plotted novel.
Catching Teller Crow has won prestigious literary prizes in Australia and deservedly so. A thought-provoking and intelligent read, it’s a welcome dip into the world of Antipodean YA.
Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina is published by Penguin, 208 pages.