Double Madness, Caroline de Costa’s debut crime novel is set in Queensland and takes the reader into the sordid underbelly of psycho-sexual depravity. Writing about a worlds she knows well, the author combines in this novel a strong sense of place with a well-delivered intricate plot. The body of Odile Janvier is found in bizarre circumstances deep in the rainforest outside Cairns by sheer chance when local doctor Tim Ingram and his wife take a shortcut along a little known back track impelled by the ravage caused by the impact of Cyclone Yasi. Their car gets trapped and on their walk out, they discover Odile’s body, tied to a tree with a number of expensive, fashionable scarves. Investigations quickly discover that her husband has also been missing since before the cyclone, but with both parents estranged from their sons – one in Tasmania, the other in jail – and nobody in small-town Cairns knowing much about the pair, their disappearance was not noticed. Once the investigation kicks off, it’s not long before some disturbing connections between Janvier and members of the local medical community start to emerge. All the while Odile’s husband remains missing, and no matter how hard Cass Diamond of Cairns CIB digs into the case, it’s hard to work out the complex web of blackmail around the Janvier couple.
The central character, Cass Diamond, is an Aboriginal woman with a teenage son, whose characterisation is well poised between the personal and the professional, and therefore realistic and attractive. The psychological dynamic between the victim and her missing husband is also interesting and convincingly depicted. There is also a good balance between plot development and the medical information necessary to sustain it. In Books & Publishing Magazine, a critic wrote regarding the novel, “One of the pleasures of this novel is that de Costa is unafraid to spend time with the characters and the landscape, and Double Madness benefits from this soaking in. While never brutal or bloodthirsty, it nonetheless feels heavy with danger” (Fiona Hardy, Australian Crime Writers Association).