El Dorado (2007) was the final verse novel written by Dorothy Porter before her death in 2008.
It’s another dark crime story with a psychological twist, but unlike Monkey Mask, her earliest work, this one is set in Melbourne.
We follow Detective Inspector Bill Buchanan in his attempt to solve a spate of child killings. He calls in his childhood friend Cath (now a successful Hollywood mover & shaker) to help with some of the more curious details of the murders.
The writing is crisp, clean & evocative. But I have to admit it wasn’t as gritty, lucid or as passionate as Monkey Mask.
MM got under my skin in major way. It moved me, it captured my attention and took me along for the ride, big time.
I enjoyed El Dorado but it didn’t sweep me up and carry me away like I was expecting… or hoping…. but maybe my expectations were impossibly high.
You could also say that El Dorado was more polished – a mature story compared to the raw, soul-searing newness of Monkey Mask. It was still full of wonderful imagery as only a verse novel can achieve (that continues to linger days after I finished reading it). Porter also had lots of interesting commentary about the aging process & the impact of childhood memories.
Falling in love also gets a look-in as Cath describes that crazy feeling…
my heart is falling
into her beautiful face
my heart is tearing open
in a giddying storm
of Christmas beetles’ wings.
As well as love of Sydney…(you can take the girl out of Sydney but not Sydney out of the girl…)
And his Sydney had always
loved him lavishly back.
The arching surrender
of her scorching blue skies,
the silky shiver
of her rolling-him-over
Her beautiful smell.
The Harbour on a hot midnight
oozing ferry diesel and oily green water
while glowing Luna Park
sprawled and clutched
like a drunk date.
The ending felt a little rushed with a whoosh of smoke and mirrors, but sometimes tying everything up in a pretty bow isn’t the thing to do.
This post is part of the Australian Women’s Writers Challenge & also part of the Birthday Reading Challange as Dorothy Porter’s birthday is today, the 26th March 1954. Happy Birthday Dot!