Diamond Dove (2006) is the first novel of two in an incipient crime-novel series and it won the 2007 Ned Kelly Awards for Crime Writing in the category Best First Novel. Diamond Dove introduces the female Aboriginal amateur sleuth Emily Tempest, who returns to her community, the Warlpuju, in the red heart of Australia, and to her traditional country, Moonlight Downs. The Warlpuju have been driven off their tribal land by white station owners but have managed to reclaim it through the new native title legislation of the early 1990s. Although Emily is of mixed descent, having a white father and an Aboriginal mother from the Wantiya nation, she is a steady and accepted member of this community.
Her best friend Hazel’s father, leader and Elder Lincoln results brutally murdered upon Emily’s return in what seems a ritual killing of tribal nature. A local clever man and guard of sacred sites, Blakie Japanangka, with a reputation for violence and madness, is suspected of the crime and the police from the nearby town Bluebush make an unsuccessful attempt to arrest him. Skilled in bush craft, Blakie disappears and the Warlpuju mob leaves the Downs to camp at the town fringe in search for new leadership. Emily engages in Blakie’s pursuit too, but her unpleasant encounters with a neighbouring station owner and a local government official convince her to change her tack and find the culprit elsewhere.
Diamond Dove—the title refers to Lincoln and Hazel’s totem bird—stands out for its realistic detail in its description of contemporary Aboriginal life in the Northern Territory, and its explanations of the intricacies of Aboriginal culture, such as ritual, sacred sites, kinship structures, totems and taboos, and the importance of country. It also pits the local white and Indigenous communities against each other in credible ways, dealing with red-neck small towns, fringe dwelling, mining activity and local farming, and shows how the Aboriginal mob is caught between a traditional and dcontemporary lifestyle.