The unnamed, eleven-year-old narrator protagonist of The Cartographer has an epileptic fit after witnessing a horrific rape-murder. The year is 1959. His father has just left the family days after his identical twin brother was killed by faulty playground equipment. The child’s closest friend is his wheeler-dealer grandfather, but it is in his own head that he thrives. To act out his grief he inhabits a series of superheroes, chief among them the Cartographer, creator of an intricate, pictorial, ever-growing map of Richmond and Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, above and below ground. Cartography (he learns the word from an old army manual) is his way of avoiding trouble. Unfortunately, trouble follows him wherever he goes.
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