Posted by: Lisa Hill | April 3, 2016

Ecstasy Lake (2016), by Alastair Sarre

Ecstasy LakeFollowing on from his exceptionally good debut thriller Prohibited Zone, (see my review) Alastair Sarre’s new novel Ecstasy Lake is enjoyable reading…

Back in the lead role is Steve West (the ex-AFL footy star ‘Westie’), nursing a broken heart and laconically trading insults with exasperated cops and homicidal maniacs.  He’s a classic irreverent Aussie laidback hero, and Sarre is a master at doing the dialogue:

‘Right,’ said Bert.  ‘Your role in the incident would also be scrutinised.  As it is, you’ll no doubt hear from cops regarding events at the restaurant.’

‘I’m not sure I want to hear about those,’ said Paul.

‘I pencilled a guy,’ I said.

‘Is that slang for something vulgar?’

‘No, I actually stuck a pencil in a guy’s leg. And I belted another guy in the head. Knocked him out.  And of course I also knocked Harlin out with a pistol.’

Chris and Paul exchanged a look.  ‘Most of the time he’s harmless,’ said Bert.

‘You put three men in hospital?’ said Paul.

‘I bet Harlin hasn’t gone to hospital. Maybe none of them has.’

‘The man with the pencil in his leg should go to hospital,’ said Paul  ‘He could get lead poisoning.’ Bert and I laughed.  (p.140)

The setting is not Adelaide as we visitors might know it.  This is not Arty Adelaide with gourmet food trails and quiet leafy streets.  This is Adelaide with gang warfare between two drug lords (and a wannabe) and a swathe of sordid suburbs called the Badlands. And beyond that there is the barren desert that might have a gold deposit big enough to create the mining boom that South Australia never had.  A mining boom to lift Adelaide out of its economic doldrums and give the indigenous owners of the land a real future.

But the bloke who found the gold seam has been hammered to death (literally), and Westie and his mate Tasso don’t take long to make some very powerful enemies.  Tasso is a very rich man in search of something fulfilling to do with his money; he employs Westie as the mining engineer he needs to do the paperwork and find the gold.  As you’d expect with a billion dollar mining opportunity and a whole lot of people who find out what’s supposed to be a well-kept secret, there are many vested interests at work: an embittered ex-wife with a ferocious mother; the drug barons and their assorted thugs; a genial politician with a taste for fine wine and other rewards; and the canny indigenous owners of the land.  And of course there’s a love interest who can’t help but add to the danger that Westie seems to thrive on.

Fast-paced, well-plotted, and distinctively Australian in its style and preoccupations, Ecstasy Lake is seriously good fun to read.

PS You can read more about Alastair Sarre at Meet an Aussie Author.  He blogs at


Fishpond: Ecstasy Lake: A Steve West Novel
Or direct from Wakefield Press
Internationally at major online stores, and also as an eBook.  Check the links at Sarre’s website.

Author: Alastair Sarre
Title: Ecstasy Lake
Publisher: Wakefield Press, 2016
ISBN: 9781743053966
Review copy courtesy of Wakefield Press


  1. Wow. I wouldn’t peg this as something you’d like, Lisa, it does sound rather “bloke-ish”!


    • That’s the definition of a thriller, isn’t it? They call ’em ‘psychological thrillers when there’s no actual violence, and leave off the adjective when there’s a bit of biffo?
      I think I like Sarre’s books because he weaves contemporary Oz politics into it (it was detention centres in the previous one), rather like Shane Moloney in his crime novels which I enjoyed until the joke wore thin. Or *musing* was that because we had a change of government?


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