Clem stood gripping the railing, blue-and-white Cats scarf wrapped tight around her neck and beanie pulled low. Four exhausted bodies sat crumpled behind her on the interchange bench, eighteen more on the field, each of the bewildered, demoralised. The Jeridgalee Eels had built a steady lead over the first three quarters and were running away with it in the last, a four-goal margin ballooning to seven. p 52
Clementine Jones is coaching the Katinga Cats. With a massive effort she has stoked their self-belief and increased their lagging fitness. They begin to believe a generation of failure is about to be left behind. But when their star player, Clancy, a brilliant Indigenous footballer, withdraws from the team just when their fortunes are rising, the other players fall into despair.
Not so Clem. She has put a huge amount of work into this team and she is not about to accept Clancy departing without a word of explanation.
Lapse is Sarah Thornton’s first book. She has another out already, White Throat, which is also getting excellent reviews, and I predict she will join the ranks of top Australian Crime writers, like Jane Harper and Candice Fox. Her work is set in a small town beset by declining industry and racism. Her fictional town Katinga is in Victoria, but because of the conflict between white and black residents, at first has more of a feel of Queensland. But then I remembered towns like Moree in New South Wales, or Lake Tyers in Victoria which were long settled by aboriginal tribes before the whitefella came and took over.
The same kind of resentment exists between the whites in Katinga who regard their indigenous neighbours as lazy, welfare dependent and totally unreliable. Clementine Jones has taken on a huge task in trying to develop a strong cooperative team out of such warring elements.
It is, therefore, quite devastating when Clancy, pulls out and won’t say why. Clem is determined to bring him back. She pays a visit to his very pregnant wife.
Melissa frowned and crossed her arms over her chest. her belly bulged accusingly a Clementine. ‘You whitefellas got a nerve, haven’t ya?’ She spoke slowly, as if Clementine were a child. ‘You think I’m weak or somethin? Think I can’t have a baby without someone holding my hand? Let me tell you, my people been havin’ babies on this country for thousands of years, you know. Yeah, out here in the cold and dark, no lights, no cars, no painkillers, nothin’. Reckon I’m scared if what my mum already did five times?’ p 36
Clem even, with great trepidation, has a butterfly tattooed on her bottom in the cause of finding out what has happened to Clancy.
This story is aptly named. Clem has had a lapse which has irrevocably changed her life and seen her as the only applicant for a low paid job as a football coach in a remote town. Clancy has had a lapse which has appalling consequences for him, and the boss man Gerard Holt and his ambitious wife Bernadette Holt have had their lapses also.
The suspense and pacing of this tale are second to none, and Clem’s speech when she is urging on the players and forcing them to respect her as a coach is spot on.
Sarah Thornton was a successful corporate lawyer when she gave up the law to live on a catamaran and write thrillers. I think she’s on to a good thing.