Book Review: The Power Game by Meg and Tom Keneally

The Power Game is the third book in the crime series set in Colonial Australia by daughter and father team, Meg and Tom Kenneally.


When a boatman is murdered on a remote island off Van Dieman’s Land, the authorities want to blame a famous, and very inconvenient, political prisoner. But the victim’s history of blackmail prompts Monsarrat to look further afield – and not everyone is happy . . .

In this, the third in the Monsarrat series, Hugh Llewelyn Monsarrat and his trusty housekeeper, Mrs

Mulrooney, are sent to remote Maria Island to solve the murder of Bart Harefield, the detested cutter skipper responsible for bringing supplies and correspondence to the island. Bart knows that knowledge is currency and he’s not shy about reading the letters he brings across …

When Harefield is murdered with an axe, blame is laid at the feet of Thomas Power, the charismatic Irish revolutionary held in detention – with a lot of privileges – on Maria Island. Monsarrat and Mrs Mulrooney are told to solve the murder. They soon realise their real job is to tie Power neatly to the crime, so he can be hanged without inciting rebellion.

But were there others who also had reason to want to shut Harefield up?

My Thoughts

I enjoyed this book even though it didn't enthrall me to the same extent as the first two in the series (The Soldier’s Curse and The Unmourned).

Monsarrat and Mrs. Mulrooney are still wonderful characters, but I thought the mystery was too reminiscent of the first book, a fact the duo acknowledge themselves, and the playfulness/humour of their relationship seemed to be missing this time around. The latter can easily be explained by the need to keep their status as ex-convicts secret, a lot of time spent apart, their unease at being away from the familiar surroundings of Parramatta and the realisation that they are pawns in the game between the government and Thomas Power. Mrs. Mulrooney plays a greater role than Monsarrat in this novel and is once more forced to confront her tragic past.

I was also surprised at the depth of feeling Monsarrat expressed for Grace, an inmate of the Female Factory and a character from the previous book. While I remembered he’d shown interest in Grace, his pining suggested a more serious romance, details of which I’d missed somehow.

Apart from these niggles, I still enjoyed the historical aspect. The lesser known penal colony of Maria Island, off the coast of Tasmania, and the treatment of Irish political prisoners formed an interesting backdrop to this latest mystery.

The Kenneallys have a knack for blending their research with a good story, even though they admit to some anachronisms and have taken liberties with some known facts. This series is worth following for the history lesson alone. Although I was a little disappointed with this book, it hasn't dampened my enthusiasm for the series.

Monsarrat and Mrs. Mulrooney’s next investigation takes them to Sydney. I hope by returning to the mainland our duo recover the charm that initially drew me to them.

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