Title: Dilemma (Scobie Malone #16)

Author: Jon Cleary

Reader: Christian Rodska

Category: Mystery

Audio published: September 30, 2013 by AudioGo (First published 1999)

Rating: 3½ out of 5 stars

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Australian detective Scobie Malone is asked to investigate what seems like an easy case: Norma Glaze has been strangled in her bedroom and her husband Ron has disappeared. What appears cut-and-dry on the surface is complicated by the fact that the night before involved a one-night stand and a killer with a twisted right hand.

Four years later, Malone finds and arrests Ron Glaze in a bush town, but the man insists he is innocent even as the evidence makes his conviction in court a cinch. The young prosecutor, Tim Pierpont, is a well-respected community member, too, which makes for an easy sentence of Glaze’s guilt.

Meanwhile, the capital city of Sydney is dealing with the kidnapping of a child model, Lucybelle Vanheusen, and her hysterical family. Malone doesn’t take the case seriously until a body turns up – and only then does Malone realize that Lucybelle’s family life does not at all resemble his own caring household.

Finally, a witness comes forward in the Glaze case and implicates a new suspect – and the deeper that Malone digs into both murders, the more he wishes he had not.

They say you learn something new every day, which is probably true, not that I remember everything I learn. Today I learned “dilemma” is always spelled DILEMMA. “Dilemna” is wrong, period. Apparently I’ve been spelling it wrong for 30 years. Who knew?

Now, on to the book, Dilemma by Jon Cleary. I’ve listened to several in this series with a couple of different narrators. This time, I was expecting Rodska and he didn’t bother me as much as the last time. He’s still not quite Malone, but it wasn’t as jarring.  He does a good job with differentiating the characters, although I still don’t like his Lisa voice, Scobie’s wife.

There are two unconnected mysteries here, the old case that seems wrapped up and the new one involving Lucybelle and her family. Both present dilemmas for Malone. In the Glaze case he comes to believe Glaze is not guilty, but his suspicious seem at best unprovable. In the Lucybelle case, those most upset about the Lucybelle’s death may be the ones responsible, but were they sane at the time?

Every series has its own downfalls. One I’ve found in the Cleary’s series is that too often the suspect is discovered early, no other possibilities exist and in the end it’s right. One of the reasons I like this one is because the suspect in the Glaze case was found early  and none other looked at, but it was maybe not the right solution, and Malone has to deal with the repercussions of that, of having an innocent man on trial.

There are clues, but the Malone books don’t tend to be ones where you add up the clues and find the culprit. We’re either told early and watch as Malone finally gets there or he gets there before us and the clues just support his suspicions. Not that it matters to me; generally I’m not one who strives to guess who the killer is.

The setting, Sydney right before the Olympics is interesting. It’s different from old Australia as Cleary seems to lament, but still a step back in time for the modern reader/listener.

It’s not a deep mystery, doesn’t touch your heart, so to speak. Even if you have children, Lucybelle’s fate doesn’t really affect you, because her life and family are outside the norm, the air there is rarefied and yet rotten. But it’s interesting and I do like Malone. He’s trying to do the best he can and, unlike several fictional detectives I can think of, has the full support of his staff and his superior.

Scobie Malone Series

  1. The High Commissioner
  2. Helga’s Web
  3. Ransom
  4. Dragons at the Party
  5. Now and Then, Amen
  6. Babylon South
  7. Murder Song
  8. Pride’s Harvest
  9. Dark Summer
  10. Bleak Spring
  11. Autumn Maze
  12. Winter Chill
  13. A Different Turf
  14. Endpeace
  15. Five-Ring Circus
  16. Dilemma
  17. The Bear Pit
  18. Yesterday’s Shadow
  19. The Easy Sin
  20. Degrees of Connection


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