Peter Corris is well known in Australia for his crime fiction series featuring Cliff Hardy. This novel is one of his historical fiction novels although it does also involve quite a bit of crime.
1886 Rosa Nightingale, prostitute, Lucas Ramsay, ex-soldier turned bandit, Stanley Stoneham, prizefighter, Alexander McPherson, alcoholic doctor, and Griffith Summerhill, police officer, are aboard the majestic Murray River paddleboat steamer the Colonial Queen. Rosa is fleeing her louche life and opium addiction and searching for her remittance man brother. Stoneham’s fighting career is drawing to a close as he resorts to stopping off in the river towns for exhiition bouts. Macpherson battles his demons and yearns for a life like that of his author, fellow Scotsman Robert Louis Stevenson. Summerhill is on the trail of Ramsay. Their lives collide and intertwine as the Colonial Queen moves down the swift flowing, ever-changing river.
Quite a cornucopia of characters! This was a fast, easy read with not a great deal to challenge the reader. A book you could easily knock over in an afternoon. There are lots of references to Australia’s past with Federation being a topic of discussion, mention being made of blackbirding in Queensland, the aborigines in Victoria, crime and police corruption along with small-time crime immigrants from London. An enjoyable read, The Colonial Queen gives some insight into life in Australia in the 1800s.