Bibliophile | Detective Cardilini returns for Man at the Window

Man at the Window
by Robert Jeffreys

A crack of thunder echoes across the night-time quadrangle of an exclusive boys’ school where dormitory windows are crammed with eager, noisy boys. A teacher known as Captain Edmund is also at his window while a ten-year-old boy stands in his pyjamas outside his door, barefoot and shaking. When the boarding master is found dead the next morning, it is deemed accidental by the police hierarchy before a lethargic and usually drunk detective is told to write up the report.

It is 1965 and Detective Robert Cardilini has been on a downhill slide since the death of his wife 17 months previously.  He is annoyed by the privileged arrogance of those at the school and his instincts tell him that the shooting is not accidental. With a police hierarchy comprised of mainly ex-students of the school, the seedy detective knows it will be a battle to prove it. This requires that he clean up his act, much to the relief of his 18-year-old son who has his own issues to deal with.

Although the story is set in the fictional boarding school of St Nicholas College, the surrounding locations are very familiar to Perth readers. The issues of the misuse of power and intimidation would also be familiar to many people. As Cardilini digs deeper, the people who want to protect the school close in on him and the detective has to consider how much his need to be right will redeem his months of ineptitude and how much damage he will do to those closest to him.

As the cover of the book says, “there’s the law, and then there’s justice”. One of the ex-students of the school is on leave from being conscripted for the Vietnam War and he reminds Cardilini that there is the need to protect your family, the need to protect your mates and the need to protect those who can’t protect themselves. Solving the mystery of the death of the man at the window involves quite a complex tangle of moral issues. It also exposes the network of beliefs and lies that kept the issue of sexual abuse quiet for so many years.

Lezly Herbert

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