Last Drinks, by Andrew McGahan

Identify somebody? Did he mean identify some actual body? That didn’t make any sense. It wasn’t that people didn’t die in Highwood, but I wasn’t a local, not even after ten years of living there. I was nobody’s relative and nobody’s next of kin. Why would I be called?

Ten years after the Fitzgerald Inquiry in Queensland, disgraced journalist George Verney thinks he has put those times behind him. He’s living in quiet Highwood, close to the NSW border, has given up drinking and is working a steady job as the sole reporter on the local paper. Thinks are ticking along with his love interest, Emily, and he has managed to forget the great love interest of his life, Maybellene and her husband Charlie, once his best mate and partner in illicit business.

But an early morning phone call from the local police sergeant shatters not just his night’s sleep, but his whole existence. Charlie has been found dead, brutally murdered close to Highwood.

In the days that follow, George must face up to the demons of his past. Charlie has died a homeless drunk and it is up to George to organise a funeral, at the same time trying to piece together just why Charlie has been killed. Returning to Brisbane for the funeral, George seeks out the other partners in the business venture which saw them all named and shamed in the Inquiry. He’s desperate to find out the truth but as it unravels he finds that the truth is sometimes unpalatable.

Last Drinks is a thrilling crime novel with highs and lows; laugh out loud moments teamed with deep, dark depths; and masterful rendering of character and place. The events of George’s life have a parallel with the political life of the whole state, an analogy which author Andrew McGahan develops subtly, yet skilfully.

Winner of a Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel, Last Drinks was first published in 2000 and has been re-released along with McGahan’s other novels.

Last Drinks, by Andrew McGahan
Allen & Unwin, 2000, this edition 2005