Book extract: Debut novel from crime reporter delivers thrills, twists

Day 28: Sticks and Stones by Katherine Firkin is inspired by the many criminal trials she covered as a journalist. Firkin has covered major court and crime events for major outlets in Australian and is currently with CBS New York but she’s been writing fiction from a young age. Sticks and Stones is her debut novel with a new book coming out in May. Each day this month we have published an extract from a book by an Australian author in the hope you’ll be inspired to read more books by Aussie authors this year.

Sticks and Stones by Katherine Firkin.
Sticks and Stones by Katherine Firkin.

Extract from Sticks and Stones by Katherine Firkin:

There was no sign of Steven or Morton when Emmett returned to the third floor of the police headquarters, but the sound of frantic typing could be heard as he made his way past the reception and down the main corridor.

He poked his head through the doorway of the spare office.

‘How’s it all going?’ he asked, seeing Ted Medhurst hunched over a keyboard.

‘It’s odd,’ the homicide detective muttered without looking up.

‘Rosemary’s phone has been used fairly frequently over the last couple of weeks. I can’t imagine her killer would be so reckless – unless they were trying to make it seem like she’s still alive.’

‘That was my initial suspicion. Any recent activity?’

‘It’s mainly text messages.’ Ted pulled out a stack of papers, which contained line after line of phone numbers. ‘You can see that the numbers often repeat, so that will make life easier for us – although there hasn’t been any outgoing communication at all in the last forty-eight hours.’

The detective paused, ruffling through more papers before producing three maps, each with a bright green circle highlighted on them.

‘But in terms of the location, it looks like most of the activity is originating from somewhere northwest of the CBD. It’s impossible to give an exact origin with any certainty, but the handset’s signals have been picked up by multiple cell towers in this area.’

Emmett took one of the diagrams.

‘You think the phone is still in Flemington?’ he asked, noting the suburb was at the epicentre of the circled area.

‘There’s certainly a tower in Flemington that’s had a lot of activity – in fact that’s where the most recent pings were detected – and given Ms Norman lived in that suburb, and was found deceased there, I’d say that’s as good a guess as any.’

‘So we’re thinking the killer is local?’ Emmett paused, an image of Daniel Norman’s modest home appearing before him.

‘Perhaps – but until we find the handset and get it forensically tested we can’t know too much more of anything. I was going to suggest we organise another line search around the area where Ms Norman was found. It’s not improbable that the killer has got nervous in the last day or so and has dumped the phone somewhere near that creek.’

‘Good idea; let’s get straight onto that,’ Emmett said. ‘And in terms of activity on the phone, do we have any idea who she was in contact with?’

‘I’ve noted that there was a call from her brother on Saturday afternoon, the thirteenth of July, just as he claimed, and there was also recorded movement later that evening.’

‘Really?’ ‘Yes. It appears the phone remained in the Flemington area until almost 6 pm, when it recorded movement through West Melbourne and the city, heading south in the vicinity of Queens Road to St Kilda.’

Sticks and Stones by Katherine Firkin, $32.99 published by Penguin Random House, is available now.

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