‘So you believed the alleged rapists over the alleged victim?’ Jane’s voice took on an indignant pitch. ‘Girls lie sometimes.’ I nodded. ‘And rapists lie all the time.’
When Senior Detective Antigone Pollard moves to the coastal town of Deception Bay, she is still in shock and grief. Back in Melbourne, one of her cases had gone catastrophically wrong, and to escape the guilt and the haunting memories, she’d requested a transfer to the quiet town she’d grown up in.
But there are some things you can’t run from. A month into her new life, she is targeted by a would-be rapist at the pub, and realises why there have been no convictions following a spate of similar sexual attacks in the surrounding district. The male witnesses in the pub back her attacker and even her boss doesn’t believe her.
Hers is the first reported case in Deception Bay, but soon there are more. As Antigone searches for answers, she encounters a wall of silence in the town built of secrets and denial and fear. The women of Deception Bay are scared and the law is not on their side. The nightmare has followed her home.
Vikki Petraitis is best known for her true crime writing, including The Frankston Murders, a bestselling book about serial killer Paul Denyer, and her first book, The Phillip Island Murder. As a true crime writer, Petraitis has covered everything from police dogs to Lawyer X, the Russell Street bombing and sex crimes. Now she has drawn on thirty years of true crime writing and investigating to create her debut fiction novel, The Unbelieved. It’s a chilling, timely and gripping read that was also the recipient of the inaugural Allen & Unwin Crime Fiction Prize.
The novel centres around a series of sexual assaults in the small town of Deception Bay. These assaults have largely gone unreported, or, when a victim does attempt to speak up, they’re not taken seriously, blamed and shamed back into silence. Enter Antigone Pollard, a tough-as-nails detective who, despite receiving pushback from her boss, the judicial system and local residents, will not rest until the perpetrators are brought to justice. What follows is a pacy, action-packed thriller, crackling with suspense and packed with a satisfying number of twists and turns.
At its heart though, The Unbelieved is a thought-provoking novel ripped straight from the headlines that shines a light on the pervasive nature of sexual assault and gender-based violence in Australia today. It examines the consequences when women aren’t believed and the struggle for justice in a flawed system.
The Unbelieved is a triumphant debut, ushering in Petraitis as a formidable new voice in Australian crime fiction. If you read any crime novel this year, make it this one.