Michael Robotham ditches the forensics in favour of psychology in his latest novel

  • When You Are Mine, by Michael Robotham. Hachette, $32.99.

Acclaimed crime writer Michael Robotham is the first Australian to have won the prestigous CWA Gold Dagger twice, in 2015 for Life or Death and in 2020 for Good Girl Bad Girl. He was recently awarded the 2021 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for his psychological thriller When She Was Good. The judges described the novel as "an urgent, poignant and terrifying thriller".

In his acknowledgements at the end of his latest novel, When You Are Mine, Robotham tells his readers that "with each subsequent novel, I have always strived to push myself as a writer, using different tenses, new voices, or dual narratives. This is also one of the reasons that I write occasional standalone novels like When You Are Mine because it challenges me to come up with new characters and to explore new lives".

Robotham's new character in this latest work is Philomena (Phil) McCarthy and the story is told in her distinctive, challenging voice.

Phil is an officer in the Metropolitan Police, despite the fact that her father is a notorious London gangster. Her father "is steeped in myths and stories, many of them violent, hopefully embellished, but all of them spoken in whispers because nobody wants to discover if they are true".

However, when her parents divorced, Phil chose to live with her mother and has been estranged from her father and his equally criminal brothers ever since.

Five-foot-five Phil is a resolute young woman with a determination to protect the vulnerable. On patrol one night, she and her partner are called to a domestic violence incident. They rescue a young woman, Tempe Brown and arrest her abuser, Darren Goodall. But Goodall is both a police officer and a hero. He was awarded the George Medal for chasing a knifeman and being stabbed twice, almost bled to death.

Nonetheless, Phil becomes convinced that Goodall is a serial abuser and sets out to prove it, discovering that Goodall can be a dangerous enemy, protected by powerful friends in the force.

At the same time, Phil becomes friends with Tempe Brown after intervening to protect her from Goodall. Tempe, sweet and attentive, rapidly becomes a indispensable part of Phil's life, but sinister things keep happening and something isn't quite right about the stories Tempe tells.

Robotham has said that he isn't interested in the forensics of a criminal's actions - he's more interested in what's going on in his or her mind.

In When You Are Mine, he not only explores the mindset of both the abusers and the victims in domestic violence but also the tragic consequences that follow from one person being fixated on another. The result is compelling, if dark, reading.

This story Robotham's latest goes inside mind of abuser first appeared on The Canberra Times.