Kyle Perry’s debut The Bluffs was a wild ride of teenagers behaving badly, drug trafficking and social media set in the wilds of Tasmania. It was atmospheric ride, full of twists and turns that worked in the context of the increasingly out-there story. Perry’s follow up, The Deep, attempts to run a similar narrative gauntlet. He effectively captures the spectacular and dangerous coastline of the Tasman Peninsula in a story of drugs, corruption, family dynamics and revenge.
The Deep opens with a great hook. A thirteen-year-old boy is washed ashore near Shacktown on the Tasman Peninsula. On the boy’s back is a tattoo that identifies him as Forest Dempsey, missing, together with his parents, since he was six. The Dempseys are the power in Shacktown, they hold the local abalone licences and have used this legitimate business as cover for the even more lucrative drug importation and supply business. The sudden reappearance of Forest throws the Dempsey clan into a spin and seems to be the opening for a rival drug gang to start making their move. That gang is led by a mysterious figure who calls himself the Dread Pirate Blackbeard (fans of The Princess Bride will not need the explanation given for this monicker). Soon more tragedy strikes, the family starts to unravel, and long held secrets start to emerge.
As with The Bluffs, Perry tells this story from three distinct points of view: Mackenzie ‘Mackerel’ Dempsey, the black sheep third son of the Dempsey family out on bail after starting his own drug supply business in Queensland; Ahab, a Dempsey cousin who dearly wants to expose the drug trade but fears to and has now turned local publican; and Forest (who may well be a very effective thirteen-year-old con artist). Around these three is a cast of fairly colourful characters including Ivy, the hard bitten matriarch of the Dempsey clan, the persistent detective De Corrado and Shelby Dempsey, Mackerel’s sister-in-law who is only just learning about her husband’s criminal activities.
In The Deep, Perry once again displays an ability to deliver over-the-top crime fiction, with more than a hint of pulp. Much like The Bluffs, the trick with The Deep is to accept the premise, get on board with the characters and just go with the flow. The spectacular, well described setting and the atmosphere, including the myth of the ‘Black Wind’, add to the enjoyment. There is plenty here that does not make a lot of sense if looked at too closely, including some of the final twists. But as the tension mounts and secrets start to be revealed, the pages turn quickly enough for that not to be too much of a problem.