Hachette, $29.99 pb, 272 pp, 9780733638459
The tagline of Wimmera is ‘Small town. Big secret’. Mark Brandi’s first novel does indeed feature a secret (and a grim one, at that), but it also offers a disturbing insight into Australian masculinity. The book opens in the country circa 1989. Ben and Fab are primary school students who, both misfits, while away the hours catching yabbies, playing cricket, and watching The Wonder Years. Fab’s father is abusive, but they find solace in their friendship. Then Ronnie Bellamy appears in their lives. Ronnie is a ‘tall, muscular’ man who works in the nearby mines. He charms the boys with his friendly demeanour and stash of porn magazines, but he has ulterior motives. Fast-forward to 2006: Fab remains in his childhood town, working menial jobs and drinking excessively. He seems reluctant to confront his past, though a gruesome discovery forces him to do just that.